Optimising Sleep Routines: Insights from Dr. Maryhan

by | Parent Guides

1. Create the Right Environment: Sleep Hygiene

The bedroom environment plays a vital role in promoting sleep. Known as sleep hygiene, this involves setting up a bedroom conducive to rest. Here are the key elements:

  • No Tech: Eliminate technology from the bedroom to prevent distractions and ensure complete mental switch-off.
  • Lighting: Keep lighting soft and dim, especially as bedtime approaches. Avoid stark, bright lights that can be overstimulating.
  • Noise Reduction: Minimize noise levels to create a calm and peaceful atmosphere.
  • Temperature and Smell: Ensure the room is at a comfortable temperature and consider calming scents that might aid relaxation.

2. Establish a Consistent Routine

A regular bedtime routine signals to the brain that it’s time to wind down. This routine should ideally last at least 20 minutes and might include activities like bathing, brushing teeth, and reading. As children grow older, it’s beneficial to involve them in creating their bedtime routine, promoting independence and problem-solving skills.

3. Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule

Consistency is key to developing good sleep habits. This means sticking to the same bedtime and wake-up time every day, even on weekends. For those who struggle to fall asleep, it’s crucial to avoid compensating by sleeping in late, as this can perpetuate the cycle of sleeplessness.

4. Electronics Curfew

Implementing a curfew on electronics an hour before bedtime is essential. This applies to both children and adults. The blue light emitted by screens can interfere with melatonin production, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. Moreover, engaging with electronic devices keeps the brain active and alert, making it harder to wind down.

5. Manage Wind-Down Worries

For children (and adults) who tend to overthink at bedtime, it’s important to address worries before heading to bed. Techniques such as writing down worries and placing them in a “worry box” or using a “worry balloon” can help externalize and manage these thoughts, preventing them from interfering with sleep.

Teens face specific challenges when it comes to sleep. Around the age of 10 or 11, children’s brains undergo significant changes that can shift their sleep patterns by up to 12 hours. This shift explains why older children and teens may struggle to fall asleep at their usual bedtime and prefer to sleep later in the morning. Given this natural shift, there’s a growing body of research suggesting that school start times should be adjusted to accommodate the sleep needs of older students.

Final Thoughts

Sleep is fundamental for everyone, but especially for growing children and teens. By creating a conducive sleep environment, establishing a consistent routine, maintaining regular sleep schedules, setting electronics curfews, and managing wind-down worries, we can help our children and ourselves achieve better quality sleep.

Check out more from Dr Maryhan here.