Quality sleeping is an important pillar in your child’s physical and mental development. Toddlers usually wake up from sleep during the night, as so do we, adults. But unlike adults, going back to sleep is harder, for children, at this stage of life. If they fail to fall asleep repeatedly, this may impact their sleeping cycle and, in the long term, health problems can occur.
Therefore, since it is mandatory to ensure that your child gets a night of good sleep, here are some methods meant to give you a helping hand with this important matter.
Types of Sleeping Rhythms
In infants, the sleep rhythms appear by the age of six weeks. Between three to six months, most babies reach a regular sleep/wake-up cycle. By the age of two, a common thing among most toddlers is to spend more time sleeping and less time being awake since, at this stage of their life, kids sleep around 40% of their childhood.
The newborn, who is in a learning state, has increased sleep needs that correspond to the intense development of this age. The scientists have found two alternative types of sleep in babies:
- No Rapid Eye Movement Sleeping (NREM).
This is a deep sleep, during which the child’s body recovers. This type of sleep is important for the baby’s health because during this time the tissues are produced and repaired, the necessary hormones are secreted for its development process and the amount of blood transmitted to muscle is increased.
- Rapid Eye Movements Sleeping (REM).
This is a stage of sleep characterized by rapid eye movements under the closed eyelids. Dreams only appear in this phase. A REM sleep can take between 5 minutes and one hour and appears several times during a night of sleep.
The body becomes immobile, breathing and heartbeats are irregular. This type of sleep is also necessary for brain development, helping to mature the cortex and the oculomotor system by developing neural circuits.
Therefore, in the newborn, the REM stage occupies 50% of sleep duration. The REM level then decreases, during childhood, adolescence and adult stage, to 20-25%.
5 Methods Meant to Improve Your Child’s Sleep
Sleep is vital for the harmonious growth of children, and parents have the duty to ensure all the conditions necessary for a restful sleep. A good parent will always have some tips to improve the child’s sleep. Here are 5 easy kids sleep guides:
- Establish a clear going-to-sleep routine.
It is extremely important to establish a clear sleep schedule. If you follow the same schedule every day, whether it is a weekend or vacation, your child will find it easier to fall asleep and wake up rested in the morning.
You may begin with establishing a routine before bedtime. Your baby will have a clear transition from being active to preparing to fall asleep. Repeated activities in the evenings, like toothbrushing, a warm bath, and a story, help children fall asleep easily once they get to bed.
Besides the above steps, it is important to take into consideration the sleeping period you offer to your toddler. The amount of sleep shall be correlated with your child’s age in order to avoid oversleeping or resting less than necessary. Therefore, toddlers need around 11-12 hours of sleep. Children need 10 to 11 hours of sleep, and teenagers “work” best if they sleep 9-10 hours per night.
- Lights out during sleeping.
During sleeping there should be no sources of light in the child’s room, whether we are talking about lamps, toys that emit a glimpse all night, a bright thermometer, fluorescent light bulbs or a kaleidoscope of lights. Why? Because light exposure may cut off the production of melatonin and can have a strong effect on a child’s sleep since they are more sensitive to light than adults.
Putting light sources in toddlers’ rooms is a major mistake most of the parents do. White and blue (or green) tones, even if diffused, will inhibit melatonin secretion during the night. This sleep hormone is released by the brain in response to the sensitivity of the eyes to the light.
In an environment with no electric lights present, the hormone would be secreted at sunset, studies showing that the peak is reached at about 07:30 – 08:00 p.m. in children. This hormone is necessary for the child not only when preparing to sleep, but also to keep him asleep overnight.
Lights that spreads shades of white and blue (including the light emitted by TVs, smartphones, laptops, and almost all the lighting options you use in the house) inhibit the body’s melatonin secretion by fooling the brain to think it is still day. Therefore, watching cartoons before bedtime is not a good idea since screen-based media exposure will delay bedtime and reduce sleep duration.
- Check for appropriate sleeping facilities.
Another factor that contributes to the quality of your child’s rest is his bedroom. Children need to have a calm and peaceful environment, so their bedroom should be quiet, pleasant and comfortable.
The most important part of the bedroom, the bed, must be chosen especially for their height and body weight with a comfortable mattress that will immediately induce a sleepy mood.
In addition to removing electronic devices and night light sources from their bedrooms, it is also necessary to adjust the room temperature. Decreasing temperatures are a signal for the brain that it is time for sleep. An ambient temperature of 16 to 21 degrees Celsius it is believed to be optimal for a good night of sleep.
- Opt for co-sleeping.
For some babies and toddlers, co-sleeping can be a great technique to help them rest better. The presence of a familiar smell along with sensing the presence of a parent can trigger a feeling of safety which will lead to a relaxed sleep.
- Play outside!
While daily exercises are a good way to get better sleep, outdoor activities, fresh air, and natural light play even a bigger role.
Allowing children to run and play in the open air, spending more time outside than inside, can make a big difference in both the quantity and quality of the sleep that children can benefit from. Exercises and playing outside release endorphins in the blood and help with the production of melatonin that makes us feel sleepy.
These are just a few tips and tricks to improve your child’s sleep. However, many scientists believe that these techniques shall be also followed by their parents. Well-rested parents will be able to better focus on their kids’ health and prudently implement ways to improve it.