It’s the essential fuel that sees them through the day, so help youngsters get the sleep they need with these insightful ideas
Many children will go through periods when they struggle to sleep, wake up regularly, or feel tired throughout the day. Like adults, this may be the result of a number of triggers, from stress and anxiety, to lifestyle habits.
“Sleep is such a fundamental human requirement that, when it eludes us, it can have a negative impact on our day-to-day lives,” says hypnotherapist Angela Brown. “The impact of poor sleep can range from poor concentration to challenging behaviour, inability to learn new tasks, stress, anxiety, and depression.”
Angela also points to the benefits of a good night’s sleep, including feeling better prepared to take on new challenges, as well as more energy to fuel the day. So, how can you support a child who’s having problems with sleeping?
Establish a routine
“Keep to a routine with a set amount of sleep,” Angela suggests. “This helps to get our circadian rhythm back on track, so we feel more alert and able to function effectively.”
The NHS recommends children start to wind down 20 minutes before they usually fall asleep. If they’re in the habit of going to sleep later (e.g. during school holidays), you can try bringing this time forward by five to 10 minutes each week. Plus, for younger kids, you may want to incorporate a bath, or reading, into this routine.
Set the scene
As Angela points out, our bedrooms are often our sanctuaries, and somewhere we look forward to being following a busy day. “If we can control the stimuli in the bedroom, it can have a positive effect on our sleep,” she says. “Things to think about are the weight of the duvet – lighter for summer, heavier for winter. Thick curtains or black-out blinds, so our brains know it is time to sleep. No blue light, so no phones, TVs, or electrical devices in the bedroom.”
Creating a tech-free space can be a challenge in modern times, but taking steps to cut out blue light before bed can have a big impact on the quality of our sleep.
There’s truth in the technique of wearing out children during the day to help them sleep better.
“With as little as 30 minutes of activity, such as walking, running, and playing, we increase our ability to concentrate, giving us a chemical reward by generating positive endorphins, which help us to cope with life’s ups and downs,” Angela says.
That said, try to leave two hours between exercise and bedtime.
Control the light
“Our sleep is affected by the amount of sunlight we get. If we’re sitting inside on a computer by a window for 30 minutes, we might get 300 lumens of light on a sunny day. Whereas if we went outside and had a drink in the sunshine we might get as many as 25,000 lumens of light. That means more vitamin D and melatonin, which are both important for sleep.”
Sunlight is turned into melatonin by our bodies. This hormone regulates our circadian rhythm, helping us to fall asleep, and feel balanced throughout the day.
“If we have excess melatonin, it will be converted to serotonin – the wonderful coping chemical that helps us feel balanced,” Angela adds. “A win-win combo!”
Mindfulness exercises can be great for kids who have a lot of thoughts racing around their heads.
“Look at a rectangle – it could be a phone, ceiling, radiator, piece of paper, or in your head. Focus on the corner of the short line as you breathe in for seven, then with your eye follow the long line as you breathe out counting for eleven, holding for one second on the corners if you can. Repeat this for a couple of minutes.”
Angela also recommends progressive muscle relaxation, a technique where you tense and relax your muscles from the top of your head all the way down. “Pull a funny face (no one will see you!), then relax it, push your neck into the pillow and relax, then shoulders, arms, fists, back, buttocks, legs, heels, and then scrunch up your toes.”
Finally, for busy brains, Angela suggests getting those thoughts down on paper. “We can all get overactive brains from time to time. It could be about things that have happened in the day, or that might be happening the next day, and that can prevent us from getting a good night’s sleep, it can even wake us up.
“If you have a very busy brain, it can help to write down your worries, then we know we are not going to forget anything and can let our minds switch off.”
To find out more, visit the Hypnotherapy Directory or speak to a qualified hypnotherapist.