Why a good night’s sleep is important and how to achieve it!

Leading a busy, fast-paced lifestyle is often seen as a mark of success in today’s society. So many of us are trying to cram more and more into each day; staying up later and getting up earlier in order to ‘get more done’. The consequence of this is that sleep is being squeezed out with many of us not getting the sleep we need.

However, sleep is vitally important to our wellbeing and insufficient sleep can have a detrimental effect on our physical, emotional and mental health, increasing our risk of developing diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. It has been scientifically proven that insufficient sleep prevents us from functioning at our best, yet many still believe we need to work longer hours in order to be successful. This trend in reduced sleep has been branded by the World Health Organisation as a public health epidemic and sleep scientists believe it may be cutting our lives short.

Sleep is especially crucial for children, who are still developing physically, mentally and emotionally. According to the National Sleep Foundation; children between six and thirteen years of age need nine to eleven hours of sleep every night.

A lack of sleep can also negatively affect a child’s learning. Tiredness can reduce their focus, limit their concentration and prevent them consolidating information effectively. Children who are not getting enough sleep will often daydream in the classroom and miss important information, they may also struggle to do homework, making the experience unpleasant. Did you know while your child is asleep, their brain builds neural connections which help form memories? If a child goes to school without a good night’s sleep, they may struggle to retain anything and the day’s learning can be lost.

Sleep issues

Our sleep-wake cycles are synchronised by our circadian rhythm which responds to light and darkness. Every day modern life can disrupt this rhythm and upset our natural sleeping patterns.Use of devices in the evening such as TVs, phones and tablets can affect our ability to get to sleep since the light from these devices limits the body’s production of melatonin which is the hormone responsible for making us feel tired.

Getting enough sleep can be difficult for children with their busy lives and pressures of homework, after-school activities and exam preparation.Once they do get to sleep, many children are unable to get good quality sleep due to increased levels of anxiety and stress which can prevent them from sleeping as deeply as they need to.

If your child struggles to get a restful night’s sleep, there are some handy ‘sleep tools’ that can help your child to get into a healthy routine.  Parents will benefit from these tips too, so read on to find out how the whole family can enjoy better sleep!

Getting that sleepy feeling

Helping restore your child’s natural sleeping rhythm is key to them getting good quality sleep.  This is best achieved by creating a consistent night time routine. At least half an hour before bed, turn off all electronic light such as televisions, phones and laptops. During the thirty minutes before bed, do something relaxing to both the mind and body such as taking a bath or reading a book or perhaps you could do yoga or meditation together.

Be consistent with wake-up times too. Set an alarm for the same time each morning – whether or not it is the weekend! The key is consistency: doing the same routine every night around the same time will eventually train your body that it is now time to sleep.

It can be difficult to find the self-discipline to get into a consistent routine, which is why sleep aids such as wake-up lights are a great investment. These devices simulate sunrise and sunset using light which gradually dims to trigger sleep and brightens to simulate sunrise and time for waking up. Some also include relaxing sound effects and the option to wake up to music or radio.  This method of regulating sleep pattern is hugely beneficial to mood, focus and learning as it promotes simulation of natural sleeping patterns. It is also a bonus not to wake up to a sudden alarm which can spike stress hormones!

Exercises such as deep breathing, mindfulness and meditation can all help clear the mind, relax the body and promote deep sleep. There are many free apps and YouTube videos that provide guided meditation, helping you wind down for a restful night’s sleep.

In addition to this, essential oils, particularly lavender oil, are excellent for amplifying the effects of these exercises. There is research to suggest that lavender can ease anxiety and even act as a mild sedative. Using a diffuser or adding a few drops to a bath or pillow is a great way of incorporating lavender oil into your child’s bedtime routine. Not only will your child benefit from lavender’s relaxing properties, but your child will eventually associate the scent with sleepiness.