Sleep is one of the most important factors in creating a happy and thriving child. Studies have proven that children who get good amounts of quality sleep have better attention spans, patience, memory, behaviour, learning ability, and mental and physical health.
We spoke to Maternity Nurse Louenna Hood on creating an effective sleep routine that can do wonders for a child's development. Here are all of the benefits Louenna said it can bring, and how to pull it off effectively.
A child’s night will reflect their day. Make sure they have plenty of time outside in the fresh air, drink lots of water, and enjoy delicious meals.
Make sure your toddler gets some quiet time in the afternoon if they need it, but don’t sleep for so long that it disrupts their night. I have a rule that no one sleeps past 3pm, so they have enough time between nap time and bedtime.
During the night, we all go through sleep cycles. When children go through their lighter sleep pattern, if they are cold, if noise disturbs them, or they are hungry, they will wake up rather than drift into their next sleep cycle.
Have a consistent bedtime routine where children can wind down whilst having a bubble bath and storytime. Stay away from screen time.
I have found that there is a sleep window between 6.45 pm and 7 pm where children fall asleep much quicker than if they get into bed later. Children have a stress response to being tired. Their brain thinks there must be a reason why they need to stay awake. And so it releases the hormone cortisol, which has a stimulating wake-up effect. This in turn makes it harder for them to sleep often, leading to broken nights.
If your child wakes early in the morning, explain that it's still nighttime. If you are consistent, their body clock will get used to sleeping in.
Use a Gro Clock for a child as young as 18 months old. Set the clock to a reasonable time for your family - I usually set it for 6.45 am - and explain to your child that if the clock is still blue when they wake up, they have to snuggle back under the covers and go back to sleep. Then, when the sun shines on the clock so it’s yellow, it’s morning time and they can get up. Put the clock in a place where they can see it but can’t press any buttons!
Be consistent in calmly walking your child back to bed if they come to you before the clock is yellow. Consistency on your behalf is key.
Make a sticker reward chart to keep in your child’s room. If they collect four stickers for sleeping for four nights until the sun comes out on the clock, they can choose a treat.
Children who have had time outside to let off steam and play are much more likely to fall into a deep sleep and sleep for longer. I find that even if it’s ten minutes in the garden after school, it helps everyone’s mood, and bedtime is easier.
Children sleep much better when their tummies are full. If your child has had an early teatime, offer them some fruit (bananas are great as they contain potassium, which helps promote sleep), a smoothie, or even some Weetabix or cereal before their bath. This helps stop them from waking early due to hunger.
Before you go to bed, get into the routine of going in to check your child. It’s an opportunity to make sure they aren’t too hot or cold and to reposition them if they’ve wriggled around or come out of their covers.
The Nanny Louenna app is available to download from the App Store and Google Play with subscriptions starting from £4.99 a month.