You tried to squeeze one more errand into your afternoon before nap time. Big mistake! Now your preschooler is having a massive meltdown in the middle of Publix. Read on to understand why.
All of us have seen what happens to our kids if they skip a nap or go to bed too late (cranky monster on the loose!), but did you know that sleep deprivation can also make your kids more anxious? Sleep plays a major role in how we function and is key to managing stress and anxiety. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, poor sleep has been shown to significantly worsen the symptoms of many mental health issues, including anxiety.
A University of Colorado study found that toddlers with insufficient naps were more anxious and frustrated. Researchers observed facial expressions of young children on a day when they skipped their normal nap and then on another day when they had their nap. Children were less excited about positive events and more frustrated with challenges when they skipped their nap than when they were well-rested. Also, the sleepy children had more difficulty expressing their emotions. Over time, this lack of sleep may shape their developing emotional brains and put them at risk for lifelong mood-related problems.
Another study from the University of Pennsylvania found that individuals who were limited to only 4.5 hours of sleep per night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad and mentally exhausted. When they went back to a normal sleep routine, they experienced a dramatic improvement in mood.
One of the most important tools for fighting anxiety is sleep. Here are 10 ways to help your kids get consistent, restful sleep.
1. Create a Bedtime Routine. Young children need routines to succeed. Create a fixed bedtime ritual and make sure you follow it every night. For instance, have your kids brush their teeth, get in bed for a story and say a gratitude prayer. Once you do this a few times, they will automatically ask for their special bedtime routine.
2. Set a Regular Wake-Up Time. You will need to wake them up consistently at the same time every day. This helps reduce their grogginess in the morning and gets their body used to sleeping and waking up at the same time. Do not change their schedule even on weekends.
3. Provide a Comfortable Environment. Children need a calming place to unwind before they can fall asleep. Provide them with a comfortable environment that has dim lights and quiet. Surrounding them with their favorite stuffed animal, soft bedding and pillows will help them relax and get into a comfy position for the night.
4. Shut Off Technology. More and more studies are finding that technology is affecting children’s sleep in a number of ways, such as the blue light from screens interfering with the sleeping hormone melatonin. Be sure to shut down computers, video games, televisions and other electronic gadgets at least 30 minutes before bedtime. More time is even better.
5. Keep Them Cool. A child’s sleep cycle is sensitive to both light and temperature. Be careful not to make your children’s bedroom too warm or to cover them up with heavy clothing and blankets. A cool environment is best for promoting sleep. Babycenter.com recommends setting the temperature at 65 to 70 degrees for young children.
6. Limit Caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that can last for several hours. Avoid serving your children chocolate desserts and caffeinated beverages, including soda, coffee, tea, energy drinks and caffeinated water.
7. Mindful Breathing. Mindful breathing helps reduce stress and anxiety by slowing down the body and initiating the relaxation response. It is a simple tool that your children can turn to any time they feel uneasy or worried.
8. Relaxation Music. Try using some relaxing music to calm your children at bedtime.
9. Talk Out Feelings. Kids often find it hard to sleep when they are under stress. Talk to them about their fears and reassure them that you are there to protect them. Reducing their fears is crucial because higher cortisol due to stress disrupts the sound sleep of your child.
10. Observe Their Sleeping Habits. If, despite following all the necessary tips, your children are still not sleeping properly, observe their sleeping pattern and seek advice from a medical expert. There is a possibility that your child might be suffering from a sleep disorder.
Local Sleep Resources for Kids
Whether your child is having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up refreshed in the morning, the Sleep Center at Orlando Health Arnold Hospital for Children can help. Their team of sleep medicine and pulmonary physicians can diagnose and treat a wide range of disorders, including behavioral sleep disorders, confusional arousals (parasomnias), night terrors and sleepwalking, hypersomnia and insomnia, sleep apnea and more.
Sometimes changing a few things can really optimize a child’s sleep. Whether you are looking for formal sleep coaching or you just want advice for a specific issue, Sleep Like A Baby Consulting offers a variety of options to meet your needs. Owner Debbie Gerken tailors her approach for each family by leveraging her 15+ years of combined experience as a certified registered nurse in the neonatal ICU, pediatric sleep consultant, newborn night nurse and mom of three.
The Children’s Sleep Lab is a fully independent, private pediatric pulmonary and sleep medicine practice providing children’s lung, asthma and sleep specialists to our community. The practice offers state-of-the-art care with top-of-the-line diagnostic equipment at facilities in Winter Park, East Orlando, South Orlando, Ocoee and more.