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Routines for Better Sleep

If your children have been having trouble sleeping recently, you’re not alone. Pediatricians and parents around the world have been reporting disturbances to kids’ sleep cycles.[1] That’s not surprising. The “new normal” has thrown all our schedules for a loop. It’s hard to maintain a family routine in times like these. But establishing or maintaining sleep routines is worth it, because it’s hard to overstate the importance of sleep.

Why is sleep important?

Sleep bolsters immunity and mental health. It helps kids behave better and do better in school. It can even help prevent obesity and diabetes.[2],[3] Sleep is so critical, it’s one of the four core pillars of health, along with nutrition, fitness, and hydration, that the Juice Plus+ Healthy Starts program focuses on. Establishing healthy routines around sleep can help everyone in the family get the shuteye they need.

How much sleep is enough?

How much sleep do we need?  And how much sleep should a child get? For adults, the recommendation is 7–8 hours a night. But kids need more—8–10 hours for teens and 9–12 for younger kids. According to the CDC, 60 percent of middle schoolers and 70 percent of high schoolers don’t meet these targets.[4]

How are schedules changing?

Most kids’ sleep schedules have been upended because of stay-at-home orders. Some teenagers are actually sleeping better with schools closed because they can adopt a sleep schedule that more closely matches their natural sleep cycle (later to bed and later to rise). When younger kids slide into later bedtimes, however, it can result in less sleep if they still wake at their normal rising time. Perhaps even more unsettling, late bedtimes can cut into parents’ all-too-short evening downtime.

Is your child going backward?

Another common sleep issue with younger children is sleep regression. Children who previously slept until morning are waking their parents in the middle of the night. Some are no longer willing to sleep in their own beds. This can be a sign of stress in children. Your kids may be worried about the news or simply missing their normal routine. The youngest kids may be picking up on your stress. (Toddlers’ sleep issues can also just be the result of their age. Pretty much everyone who’s ever had one has spent time wondering how to make a toddler sleep.)

So how to get the kiddos to sleep?

  • Tire them out. Making sure your kids are physically active during the day is not only good for their fitness, it helps them sleep better. Exposure to daylight in the morning also helps keep their body clocks regulated so they feel tired at bedtime.
  • Avoid sugar and caffeine. These aren’t great for kids any time, but if they indulge in dessert or a caffeinated food or beverage (like chocolate, soda, or iced tea), make sure it’s a few hours before bedtime.
  • Keep them hydrated. Try to make sure your child is drinking enough water throughout the day so they don’t want a big glass right before bed. (That will have them trotting to the bathroom an hour later.)
  • Stash the screens. Looking at blue light will keep your little one up (and you, too), so put away screens an hour before bedtime. (And break your own urge to binge watch.)
  • Stick to a routine. Start getting your child ready for bed at the same time every night. Help them ease into sleep with a bath, a story, a song, and some snuggles. Let your little one choose a special blanket or stuffed animal to take to bed. Keep the routine as consistent as possible.
  • Make the bedroom sleep friendly. That means quiet, dark (or with a dim light if your child needs one), and at a comfortable temperature. My own daughter is a light sleeper, so we’ve added blackout curtains to her windows, found a very dim night-light, and invested in a sound machine that makes soothing creek or ocean noises so she won’t get woken up by us doing dishes or watching TV nearby.

For more information on the Healthy Starts program and how it can help your whole family achieve healthy routines, visit https://www.juiceplus.com/us/en/get-started/healthy-starts-about.

 

References

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/14/parenting/coronavirus-kids-sleep.html

[2] https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/infographic/children-sleep.htm

[4] https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/infographic/children-sleep.htm

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