Lockdown has shaken up everyone's normal lives and with #cantsleep trending on Twitter for the past week, it is becoming increasingly apparent that many of us are experiencing sleep problems as a result. With schools closed and kids being confined to their homes - it will have undoubtedly caused these issues for our little ones too.
However, whilst they may not be attending the classroom, it is still important to ensure that your children's minds stay active and stimulated during the day - for learning activities and family time at home. For inspiration on how to simultaneously educate and entertain them at home, be sure to check out our tips on lessons, games and more!
So, to prepare them for the foreseeable future in lockdown, it is more important than ever that children are getting a good nights sleep to maintain mood, energy and stamina throughout the day at such an uncertain time. Whether they're struggling to fall asleep, waking up with nightmares or finding it hard to stick to their bedtime routines; we've put together some top tips in a bid to help the nation catch their ZZZs and to ensure that kids are getting enough sleep at night.
Try To Stick To Your Normal Routine Every Day
As we know, a routine is very important for children, especially when it comes to sleeping every night, as it helps their body-clocks to kick in at that fateful time. Keeping their routines the same involves planning the timing of everything that you do as a family every day, from rise times to mealtimes - and by sticking to these, it will ensure that their bodies are getting the correct time-cues at the right times in the day.
Whilst bedtime routines will vary for different ages - no age group should be exempt from getting into a healthy night time schedule. Whilst parents with younger children may read bedtime stories or have cuddles before they fall asleep, older children may need to be reminded to stick to their screen-time usage guidelines during lockdown. As parents, you may find that they are tempted to push the boundaries - to use their devices until later at night, knowing that they don't have school in the morning to wake up for. However, experts suggest that all screen time should be stopped at least 1 hour before sleep as part of your standard bedtime routine. Not only is the blue light from their screens bad for inducing sleep, but it is also important to have that time to themselves without social media, to process and reflect on things. This is an important part of maintaining a good state of mental health and that goes hand-in-hand with sleep too!
Get Plenty Of Sunlight During The Day
Whilst children across the UK are staying at home, they're unlikely to be exposed to sunlight as often as they would be during normal term-time at school. This is especially true for people without gardens, those unable to leave the house at all, or for the inevitable rainy days.
So, as we mentioned earlier, make sure that you are taking advantage of your half an hour of outside exercise every day, even on a cloudy day, as you will be helping to mimic a natural daylight cycle - which works in sync with their ability to fall asleep in the dark hours at night.
By making the most of the daylight, it will encourage children to be more active and less inclined to feel sleepy and relaxed throughout the day. Remember that sleepiness is a commodity not to be wasted at a time like this - so by keeping them as alert and awake as possible during the day, it will help to save this feeling for that all-important night time!
Encourage Them To Exercise During The Day
Even if scheduled exercise times aren't a normal part of your daily routines as a family, it is important to try and add it in, to mimic the amount of exercise that they would be getting if they were still going to school every day. Of course, all children get different amounts of exercise and this is also dependant on their age. Some younger children may run around a lot in the playground during break times, whilst older children may walk to and from school. Whatever their usual activity level is like during term-time, try to get your child to match this during lockdown to minimise disruption to their sleeping patterns.
As we are all aware, the current government guidance allows us to exercise once a day outside of the home. So why not use this opportunity to do something new with the kids or as a whole family, such as bike rides or jogs? But don’t forget to maintain social spacing – keep 2 metres from other families! The World Health Organization recommends that we should all be doing 30 minutes of moderate activity per day, at least five times per week to maintain a healthy mood and sleep quality. For any other tips on how to encourage children to exercise during lockdown, we've got loads of ideas here.
Let Your Child Ask Questions About Lockdown
This is a time of worry for everyone - and remember that children will be feeling the effects of this too. In order for them to put their minds at rest, we want to make sure that they are not going to bed at night with any questions about lockdown unanswered. By answering their questions about lockdown realistically and positively, it will help to ease any feelings of discomfort that they may have about their new 'normal routines' - which will make sure that they aren't over-thinking when in bed. Experts have advised to reassure them constructively, by saying things like "some people are becoming poorly, but we're staying safe by washing our hands lots and staying inside".
If you are worried that your children are feeling anxious about issues surrounding lockdown, but they haven't raised it with you, try to prompt conversations about it and speak about it honestly. All children will react differently in times like this, so it is important to ensure that the 'unknowns' are minimised for all of them, despite their personalities.
Although this post is specifically about lockdown - remember that this issue can arise at any time. If simple reassurance doesn’t work for any fears expressed about bedtime, try to become creative in protecting against these fears. Perhaps an anti-monster spray will do the trick if your children are young, or use a similar idea for older children but tailored to suit their age.
Avoid Bedtime Talk
Have you ever had a few consecutive nights of disturbed sleep and dreaded bedtime for a few days after as a result? Well, it is the same for children. If they are experiencing any kind of sleep problems, they may become irritated by the suggestion of going to bed or resistant to their bedtime routine. With everything else going on at the moment, it is easy for this to be overlooked by parents, who will carry on insisting for them to go to bed. However, in turn, this is likely to make the situation worse.
If your kids are displaying any signs of defiance against their normal bedtime routine, consider reducing the focus on sleep and focusing more on the idea of relaxation or meditation to distract them into relaxing their minds. This will help to reset their mindset and prepare the body for sleep. Remember that any increase in anxiety during bedtime will work adversely in the struggle to put them to bed, so think about how to rephrase 'go back to bed' in a way that will help to relax them.
Create The Perfect Environment
Although keeping the room dark may be an obvious tip, there are a few other environmental factors that will help to send your child off to sleep. Like us, they are sensitive to the temperature of the room in which they sleep in, but also the temperature of their body at bedtime. So remember, whilst a warm bath may relax them, you don't want them to feel too hot when trying to settle down to bed. Typically, the room temperature should be a little cooler than daytime, as this will help to promote deep sleep. In the summer months, try to plan ahead to try and cool the room well before bedtime.
We all know that sugar has an effect on a child's mood and energy levels, but experts say that if consumed within 3 hours of bedtime, it may also affect their ability to fall asleep. Although parents are likely to be baking and cooking more with their kids during lockdown, try not to let them have any of their chocolate easter nests or cupcakes in the evenings! Also, if you do allow your child to have soft drinks or hot drinks, make sure that they don't have any containing caffeine or sugar before bedtime, as this is very likely to disrupt their ability to fall asleep.
Snacks are perfectly acceptable before bedtime as long as they're healthy and not very filling. If your child asks for food or a drink before bedtime give them a warm glass of milk, or a light, healthy and non-sugary snack.
Note: remember that if your child continues to have trouble with sleep or they experience persistent night terrors, then they may have a genuine sleep disorder. You may need to consult a paediatrician if your child's sleeping problems are continuing, despite a sufficient bedtime routine. Always trial making any adjustments to suit your child's individual needs first. To do this, try writing a sleeping diary to record your child's nighttime sleeping behaviours as well as how they function during the day. This will help to spot any patterns that may be causing the problems and it may also be helpful if you were to see a paediatrician. One major sign to look out for is whether they are very fatigued and tired during the day, but still have trouble settling at night. Teachers may report behavioural problems at school and you may notice their resistance to do homework or other tasks that require much concentration. These are all sign of an underlying sleep disorder, so remember to treat the situation with sympathy and patience.