Sleep hygiene, according to the National Sleep Foundation, is “a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness.” Good sleep hygiene is important, no matter what age. For infants and children, childhood years are a time when they are going through rapid growth and development. Therefore, it is important to make sure infants and children are getting enough rest. For parents, it’s about paying attention to what’s going on in you and your child’s environments before going to sleep to allow for the best chance for some quality shuteye.
Recently, researchers from the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health decided to look at sleep research across different countries, cultures and ages to find common best practices for youth and parents. The study itself looked at 44 studies from 16 different countries, with combined data from 300,000 kids in Asia, Europe and North America. Findings were published in Paediatric Respiratory Reviews. Based on this study, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine proposes these new sleep guidelines.
With this all of this in mind, we’ve decided to put together tips for parents to help themselves and their children improve their sleep hygiene.
- Build a good routine and stick to it. Consistency is important. Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. The UBC study also found a strong correlation between routines such as family dinners and better sleep for children and other routines such as reading to children before bed.
- Limit technology use before bed. Both the UBC study and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend removing electronic devices from the bedroom. For younger children, the more television they watch before bed, the less sleep they get at night. Therefore, parents should limit video game play closer to bed and also high-energy movies. For adolescents and older children, taking their phones to bed has a negative impact on their sleep.
- Avoid large meals and caffeine close to bedtime. This may seem obvious, but still important to point out. As the National Sleep Foundation says, heavier foods too close to bedtime can lead to stomachaches and indigestion which can negatively impact sleep. Stimulants too close to bedtime can prevent or delay sleep. Also, too much alcohol can disrupt sleep as your body begins to process it during the night.
- Be active during the day. When children play and are active, they are more tired at night. Exercising during the day is important for all ages as it leads to falling asleep easier at night.
Overall, practicing good habits as adults makes it a lot easier to pass these good habits along to children.