Every parent understands the benefits of a good night’s sleep. Being fully rested prepares you for the day ahead so you can be present and engaged. For children, sleep is even more important for their development and concentration in the classroom or out-of-school-hours care (OSHC) programs where they learn valuable lessons and skills.
Understanding if your child is getting enough quality sleep is of the utmost importance. It allows you to begin building healthy habits with your child and intervening when they may need some help.
How to Identify Sleep Deprivation in Children
According to the Victoria State Government, primary school children need about 9 to 10 hours of sleep. They also went on to explain that by increasing your child’s sleep by even just 30 minutes can dramatically improve their academic performance. Of course, it’s not just about how much sleep a child is getting, the quality of rest is also important. Without the proper amount of restful sleep, children may act out.
The signs of sleep deprivation in children are slightly different from what many adults may experience when they lack rest. While general tiredness and moodiness may mean your child isn’t getting enough sleep, here are some other common signs:
- Hyperactive behaviour
- Increased or longer naps during the day
- Reluctance to wake up
- Temper tantrums and emotional outbursts
If your child is suddenly engaging in one of these behaviours and you believe it may be because they are not getting a good night’s rest, it’s time to see what you can do to help. Here are our tips for helping children sleep through the night so they can be refreshed and engaged the next day:
Make a Routine
It’s widely accepted that children really fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed. However, the lead-up to bedtime is extremely important - you can’t expect a child to fall asleep after a stimulating event or active play.
Having a bedtime routine that is relaxing, calming and repetitive is important for helping your child fall asleep on time. While you may have a set sleep schedule for your child, like 8 p.m., don’t stress if your routine runs a little long. In this scenario, you may want to begin preparing for bed at 7:30 p.m by helping them take a bath, change into pajamas and end by reading a story. All of these calming activities will help your child understand it’s time for bed so they will fall asleep more easily.
Children thrive with routine, so having set activities for bedtime helps them begin and end their day with structure.
Create a Restful Environment
While a routine will help your child fall asleep, it’s equally important to ensure they will stay asleep. Creating a restful environment starts with the space where your child is sleeping. Providing them with a comfortable bed, blankets, pillows and any stuffed animals they normally sleep with shows them that the space is safe for them to rest.
At the same time, you want to ensure the room is also dark, cool and quiet. In summer months, this may mean investing in black-out curtains to help them sleep. A fan can also be good for cancelling out noises and keeping the room cool and comfortable. With the right environment, your child will get more restful sleep and will be less likely to wake up in the middle of the night because they are too hot or heard a noise.
Avoid Eating Before Bed
This is advice that adults and children can benefit from. Eating before bed can give children unnecessary energy late at night - especially if it's food or drinks that contain caffeine. If your child is hungry before bed, it’s definitely OK to give them a glass of water and fruit or a light snack but avoid any sweet treats or heavy meals that would disrupt their routine. Also, be aware that if they are drinking before bed, they may need to use the bathroom again before they fall asleep to avoid an accident.