The secret to a great night's sleep

Combat child sleeping problems with a story

As all parents know, bedtime can be a difficult time of the day and the result of lack of sleep can lead to behavioural problems and impaired performance at school. New research from Penn State University has found that 90% of school children are not getting enough sleep. 

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                       Image: Childrenwishingwell.org

The benefits of establishing a good night time routine for children have never been more important. as routine is key to good sleeping habits in children. According to Ofcom, one in three children now own a tablet which for many is part of bedtime routine, yet recent research by University of California has found that this can have a detrimental effect on sleep. THis week is National Storytelling Week (31 January - 7 February 2015) meaning it is the perfect time to bring the traditional bedtime story back and establish a routine and rituals to help your child get off to sound sleep, every night. 

Silentnight's sleep expert, Dr Nerina, says: "Children need and thrive on routine. By establishing a routine with a set bedtime, children are able to relax and therefore fall asleep easier. National Storytelling Week is the perfect time reassess your family's sleep habits. Each bedtime routine depends on the child, but try something comforting, for example: milk, a bath, a story, and a cuddle. Those 60 to 90 minutes before bed are crucial to the length and quality of your child's sleep." 

If your child is a sensitive sleeper, Dr Nerina has some sleep tips to help establish a good sleeping pattern for them: 

1. Nutrition and hydration - your child's nutrition can also play a vital role in helping them to get good sleep. Good nutrition helps them to make the sleep hormone Melatonin. Ensure that your child eats breakfast every day and ideally within about 30mins of getting out of bed. Try also to ensure that they are drinking at least one litre of fluids per day- dehydration can cause more frequent waking during the night. 

2. Safety and security - in other words, we sleep well when we feel safe and secure. For an adult this might mean that the front door is locked, the inbox is empty and there is food in the cupboard. For a child, it becomes more basic and a calm sleep environment is particularly key such as the light levels, sound - if your child wakes at the slightest noise it might be worth experimenting with a white noise machine or smells such as lavender or eucalyptus.

3.Stimulation - this is a particularly important consideration if your child is a very sensitive sleeper and tends to engage with information very readily. Minimise time spent at the computer or TV, ideally allowing at least 60 - 90 minutes of technology-free time before bed. Reading in bed can be a great way of winding down.

4.Reassurance and rest - if your child is going through a tough patch with their sleep try to reassure them as much as possible. If the word 'sleep' is becoming a bit of a stress-inducer encourage them to think about resting rather than sleeping.

Do you have a bedtime story every night or let the children have their own downtime? For further information and sleep tips /sleepmatters. 

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