Expert Sleep Tips for Kids and Babies
How Much Sleep Should Your Kids be Getting?
According to Niamh, preschool and school age children should ideally be getting at least 10-11 hours of sleep a night. So if your child is falling short of that, it’s important to look for ways to encourage longer, better sleep.
Niamh recommends starting by gradually bringing back bedtime to an earlier time to avoid your child getting overtired before it’s time to go to sleep. Do this over a week, and bring back bedtime by 15 minutes every two days. This will not only lead to a longer sleeping time, but also better sleep quality.
What Are the Different Phases of Sleep?
For children, there are roughly three phases of sleep during the night. Within each phase are sleep cycles. Each sleep cycle is roughly about 45 minutes and they go in and out of these during the night.
According to Niamh, for the first four or five hours of sleep, your little one will go into quite a deep sleep.
From around 11pm or midnight onwards, for the next three or four hours it’s a much lighter phase of sleep and that’s where a lot of parents find there’s some difficulty for babies and children going from one sleep cycle into the next, where they might wake up.
For the last part of the night (from around 4am to 6 or 7am) they return to a deep sleep once again. Niamh advises that if you have an early riser, waking up too early at around 5am, it means they are missing out on that important last phase of sleep. In this case, she recommends trying to get them to go back to sleep if they wake up early, even if it’s just for an hour.
How Can I Get Kids Back to Sleep When They Wake Too Early?
Set clear boundaries and do not engage with any playful behaviour before it’s time to get up. Gro clocks are great for giving children a bit of control and gradually bringing wake up time to an acceptable time.
What is Melatonin – and Why is it Important?
Melatonin is the hormone that humans produce that gives us that sleepy feeling to bring on sleep. To encourage its production, Niamh recommends a dark bedroom. Blackout blinds for the summer months will help with this.
For a healthy sleep routine, she advises dimming the lights as it gets closer to bedtime to help wind-down and encourage a sense of calm in children.
If a child is over-tired, they will have difficulty getting into that first deep stage of sleep, as their body is fighting the melatonin with adrenaline.