by Katie Martin, Healthy Learning Paths’ Instructor
Has summer changed your sleep schedule? How about the sleep schedule of your kids? For some, summer is known as the sleep disrupter. Can you relate? With school out and extra hours of daylight, sleep schedules for both kids and adults are disrupted.
So how do you hack the sleep disrupter? A good night’s rest benefits both mental and physical health. Sleep recharges the body and brain for the next day. Adults know how hard it is to function when you do not get enough sleep. With sleep deprivation, even simple tasks become a challenge. Imagine how a child feels and functions with lack of sleep. Remember children require regular sleep for growth, development, and even learning.
What exactly does sleep do for your child? Healthy sleep:
- Increases attention spans,
- Promotes learning and problem solving,
- Helps regulate emotions,
- Promotes positive attitudes and behaviors,
- Helps with tissue growth and repair,
- Strengthens the immune system, and
- Improves mental fitness, physical fitness, and social emotional fitness.
Eliminating distractions before bed and practicing a bedtime routine are the secret sauce to a satisfying night’s sleep. With the start of school right around the corner, now is the perfect time to practice healthy sleep routines. The High Five for Sleep routine is a great way to introduce your child to a healthy bedtime schedule.
So, what is the High Five for Sleep?
- If your child is hungry, choose a healthy snack without sugar or caffeine.
- A warm bath or shower is a terrific way to relax before bed.
- Clean pajamas tells the child to get ready for bed.
- Brush your teeth is an important part of any bedtime routine
- Read a story or book signals the body and mind to relax.
Sugar and caffeine are barriers to healthy sleep. These substances stimulate the brain telling it to wake up. If your child is hungry before bedtime, a healthy snack can be part of the bedtime routine. Keep in mind that there is no need to eat before bed, if your child is not hungry. Some healthy snack ideas include:
- Celery or apples with nut butter
- Cereal (without added sugar) and fresh fruit
- Yogurt (without sugar) and fresh fruit
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Whole grain toast with avocado
After a healthy snack, a warm bath or shower, brushing your teeth and putting on a clean pajamas are healthy and relaxing activities to practice with your child.
Last but not least are disrupters that interfere with brain relaxation and sleep. Screen time with computers, tablets, TV, video games, or phones signal the brain to stay awake. This disrupts the sleep cycle making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. How can you teach children to overcome these sleep disrupters? Two hours before bed, replace screen time with these activities:
- Draw or color
- Play a board game
- Build a puzzle
- Deep breathing with stretching or yoga
- Listen to calming music
- Share a conversation about what happened during the day
- Pack lunches and fill water bottles together
- Help your child lay out clothes for the morning and load backpacks
Bedtime routines are powerful to keep your child on a sleep schedule that allows for healthy sleep. During the day, encourage outdoor physical activity through play as physical activity improves sleep. Summer offers great opportunities for outdoor activities even if it is a simple walk to the park or a family bike ride.
A good night’s rest helps your child develop healthy habits that last a lifetime. Healthy sleep puts children on the path to mental fitness, physical fitness, and social emotional fitness. Guess what? Healthy sleep routines improve your health too! So go ahead and hack those summer sleep disrupters at your house. Try out the High Five for Sleep bedtime routine with your child tonight. Pleasant dreams!