Your Sleep Environment: What’s Keeping Your Kids (and YOU) up at Night
If you’re kids aren’t sleeping well, chances are you aren’t either. As much as we love our children, we definitely don’t love it when they can’t sleep through the night.
Interrupted sleep can lead to poor productivity, low memory retention, and it can affect your mood – and makes the morning pre-school routine miserable for the whole family. While our daily habits and routines play a major role in the quality of sleep we receive, so does our sleep environment. Most parents don’t even realize that a few easy, and low-cost, tips could give them and their kids the sound sleep they’ve been longing for.
Lack of Routine
Even our children have an internal clock that mimics nature’s day and night cycle, helping their bodies know when it is time to sleep and when it is time to rise. The problems begin when erratic schedules get in the way of their nighttime routines. Establishing a regular bedtime, as well as a nightly routine, not only can help your kids sleep better, it also helps prevent future sleep problems as they age and sets up good habits for the rest of their lives.
Ideally, the times your kids go to bed and wake up should not vary by more than hour each night and day, this even includes the weekends. Not only will they be naturally tired by this time, but a bedtime routine helps signal to their brains and bodies that it is time for sleep. Remember if you have a big event or evening you need the kids to stay awake for, let them sleep in or encourage a rest time during the day. Sometimes we could all use a nap!
Artificial light can keep you up just as much as natural light – and the same goes for your kids. As night sets in, our bodies begin to produce melatonin – getting us ready for sleep. However, artificial light throughout the home and in the bedroom can have the complete opposite effect and reduce this production of melatonin. Try to dim the lights in their sleep spaces 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime, allowing their bodies to unwind naturally and be ready to welcome sleep. When the times comes for them to finally fall asleep make sure to unplug the nightlights and tell them to sleep tight.
Uncomfortable Mattresses, Pillows & Pajamas
If you’ve ever slept on an uncomfortable mattress, itchy sheets or used cheap pillows, you know how damaging it can be to your sleep. If you can’t sleep in these conditions, you can’t expect your kids to either. While it is important their mattresses are supportive to promote good posture and health, their bed surfaces also shouldn’t be too firm.
In most cases your children’s sleep surfaces are a matter of preference, but it is important to make sure their mattresses, pillows, and bed spreads are promoting better sleep, not hindering it. So ask your kids what they like about their bedtime setup and listen.
In addition, what we sleep in can impact our sleep as much as what we sleep on. Kids tends to kick off their covers throughout the night to help regulate their body temperature, meaning they need the right pajamas to help them stay asleep. Look for pajamas made with breathable, lightweight fabrics, like cotton, to prevent sweating if your kids start to get warm.
Too much Screen Time
While tablets, smartphones and TVs are perfect for keeping our little ones occupied during the day, they tend to keep them up throughout the night. These blue light-emitting devices actually decrease their bodies’ natural production of melatonin. Without enough melatonin, trying to get your kid to go to sleep is like trying to fit a round peg through a square hole.
Part of their bedtime routine should include powering down their favorite devices, no matter how much they want to watch Paw Patrol or play Minecraft, and replacing the time with activities that allow for bonding and relaxation. Try reading them their favorite book, putting them in a warm bath or listening to some relaxing music.
Pets in Bed
Your furry friends may be your child’s favorite sleep companions, but they may also be the reason he or she is waking up throughout the night. While there are many benefits to owning pets, better sleep is not one of them.
In addition to them being on different sleep schedules than us, you may also be awoken when your dog or cat switches positions, scratches at the door to be let out, or when they wake you up with with a howl to communicate with the dogs next door. Even caged animals can cause some disturbances when they eat, play and exercise so it is best to keep critters like guinea pigs out of the bedroom as well since they are nocturnal and can keep hamster wheel squeaking all night.
Most importantly, you need to be consistent. Kids are creatures of habit who do much better when they are sticking to a set schedule. Once you have established proper sleep habits and a bedtime routine with your children, it is imperative you enforce it. Their sleep, as well as yours, depends on it!