8 Health Tips for Better Sleep in Children and Adolescents
8 Health Tips for Better Sleep in Children & Adolescents
A good quality of sleep is important for the growth, immunity, brain functioning, and emotional wellbeing in children and adolescents. Inadequate sleep or poor sleep quality can affect their ability to focus and learn on a daily basis. It is also linked to many progressive ailments which can easily snowball into major health concerns. Having trouble falling or staying asleep, having night terrors, teeth grinding or snoring are some of the signs indicating that your child or teenager might have a sleep problem. You might also notice behaviour problems, mood swings, difficulties with learning and memory retention, poor growth or excessive tiredness during the day.
How much sleep do children and teenagers need?
The amount of sleep your child needs changes as they grow. Everyone is different, but as a general guide, children are recommended the following amounts of sleep every night:
Ages 3 to 5: 10 to 13 hours (including naps)
Ages 6 to 12: 9 to 11 hours
Ages 13 to 18: 8 to 10 hours
8 Tips to Improve Sleep in Children & Adolescents
The sleep needs for the young will vary based on their age, activities and other factors. The following are some of the general tips that may help your child or teen to get better rest at night.
1. Develop a Good Sleep Hygiene
Create a consistent and enjoyable bedtime routine.
Keep regular sleep and wake times.
Make a comfortable bedroom- a room that is cool, quiet and dark – and without a TV or electronic devices.
Create a strong sleep association with the bed and bedroom. Only use the bed and bedroom for resting. Encourage use of a security object such as a blanket or a comforting toy.
2. Resolve Pain and Stiffness in the Neck & Shoulders
Just like adults, a sore and stiff neck can affect the sleep quality in kids and teens. They may find the head often tilted to one side, having difficulty in bending the head backward or putting the chin to each shoulder. The neck muscles can be very sore to the touch.
Having unresolved pain as a child may lead to a similar problem continuing into adulthood. If the neck pain and stiffness does not improve within a few days, you should bring your child to consult a Doctor or Physiotherapist.
3. Relax the Nervous System
i) Busy children and teenagers need some time to relax and wind down. A 20 to 30 minute bedtime routine which includes calming activities, such as reading a book, listening to gentle music, practising mindful breathing exercise or sharing about the day in the room helps to tranquilise the mind and the body.
ii) Encourage your child or teens to get their anxious thoughts out of their head such as writing in a journal or sharing with parents. It is also helpful for them to think about the good things that happened that day. Focusing on the positive will help children feel more secure.
iii) Mindfulness Exercises: Mindfulness exercises like meditation help to calm the nervous system and decrease stress hormones. These often consist of deep breathing exercises, body awareness, or guided imagery. You can get more ideas through books, tapes, and even smartphone apps.
v) Craniosacral Therapy or Integrative Manual Therapy are gentle light touch therapies which can help children or teens to relax their nervous system and release tensions in the body for better sleep.
Regular Physical activity is an important part of healthy living. It can help people of all ages fall asleep faster and stay asleep. Most children need at least one hour of exercise per day. Just make sure to avoid vigorous activity within two hours of bedtime.
There are foods that stimulate the brain and reduce the quality of sleep. Children and Teens may need to avoid the following foods, especially 2 to 3 hours before bedtime:
i. Avoid Caffeine- Caffeine can be in some energy drinks, coffee, tea, chocolate etc.
Eating the right amount at the right time is equally important for a good rest at night. Try finishing the last meal 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
6. Avoid Blue Light
The blue light emitted by mobile devices, computers and TVs may suppress the levels of melatonin (the sleep hormone) and therefore inhibit sleep. Watching TV, playing video games, or scrolling web pages on a phone or computer also stimulates the brain, making it harder to wind down for sleep. Electronic devices should be kept out of the bedroom and ideally not used within one to two hours of bedtime.
7. Exposure to Natural Light in the day
Natural light promotes and supports the natural biological clock. Encourage your child or teen to get as much natural light as possible during the day, especially in the morning. Bright light also counterbalances the effects of blue light.
8. Work with your Doctor & Other Health Professionals
An occasional night or two of poor sleep is normal for most children and teens. However, if there are constant sleep disturbances or unusual symptoms such as significant daytime sleepiness, severe snoring, or abnormal breathing during sleep, check in with your doctor to rule out any possible serious causes of insomnia, such as childhood sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.
You can also work with an Integrative Manual Therapist to release the tensions in the nervous system and the body which helps to improve a better sleep pattern.