As parents, we also act as teachers in our children’s lives. We teach them right from wrong. We teach them manners. We teach them how to be independent, thoughtful and happy human beings who contribute to the world in a positive way.
And, whether we realise it or not, we teach them good and bad habits. Brushing their teeth before bedtime is a good one. Watching TV right up until lights out… well, it’s not so good.
For all the habits that we teach our kids, getting them into good sleeping habits is up there with the most important. Because sleep is essential to our health, our happiness and our overall well-being – whatever age we are. Good sleep means we’re more productive, more creative and in better physical and mental shape. While continuous poor sleep can leave us feeling anxious and depressed, more prone to catching every bug that passes our way.
So we should never underestimate the important of sleep. And we should pass this lesson onto our children, as early as we can. After all, kids are pretty impressionable so it helps to set a good example now!
Here’s how you can help your child to understand the importance of sleep:
1) Create an evening routine
If your child goes to bed at a different time every night, and if the hours leading up to their bedtime are hectic, it’s probably quite hard for them to get to sleep. And they may not realise just how beneficial this snoozy time is.
So make sure your whole family follows some sort of pre-bedtime routine. After your evening meal, create a relaxing atmosphere in your home by dimming the lights (or using lamps/candles instead of harsh overhead ones), avoiding loud music or noises (but soft music is fine) and choosing gentle, quiet indoor activities like colouring or scrapbook making over anything too energetic.
Around an hour before bedtime, turn off any devices that emit blue light, like TVs, tablets and smartphones – these actually overstimulate the mind and block the production of melatonin, which we normally rely on to relax. Instead, give your children a bath and read them a story to help them settle down before sleep.
By sticking to the same routine every night, your children will start enjoying a better sleep… and will feel the benefits of it in the days that follow.
2) Set a positive example
If you don’t go to bed until 1am and spend your evenings binge-watching Netflix, well, that ain’t really setting the best example for your little ones! You’ll probably wind up lying in the next day as well, so instead of a family of early birds you’ve got a bunch of lazybones.
The best way to teach your kids about sleep is to get a decent kip yourself. So follow your own evening routine, get to bed at a reasonable hour and make sure to switch off your devices with an hour to go, too… yep, your smartphone included! Get an old-school alarm clock instead, avoid checking your phone every 5 minutes in bed and you’ll sleep sounder as a result. Once you start getting into healthy habits and feeling more rested, you’ll be living proof that sleep is a smart investment!
For more tips on how to get a better sleep at night, see what The Sleep Advisor has to say on the matter. From meditation exercises to sleep positions, mattress guides to sleep-promoting plants, these guys know what it takes to get a better night’s rest!
3) Make sure they nap
As babies and toddlers, your children were probably all about the naps. You couldn’t keep them awake sometimes! But now they’re a little older, their naps have fallen to the wayside. They’re so busy running around and enjoying their childhood – as well they should – that they often get overtired, and pretty cranky as a result.
So nip this crankiness in the bud. Encourage them to have a short afternoon nap – say, when they get home from school – and let them see the difference it makes for themselves. They’ll be more capable of facing their homework, of playing football with their friends, or whatever other activities the afternoon has in store. You might even take this opportunity to have a nap yourself! Bliss.
Hopefully by getting into an evening routine, by napping regularly and by seeing the example you set, your children will start to understand the importance of sleep. Meaning you both have sweeter dreams, and sweeter days, as a result!
**This post is in collaboration with The Sleep Advisor**