Sleep – An Underrated Routine That Makes Kids Smarter and Sharper
Kids tend to be active throughout the day. It’s a task to have them sit down quietly for different engagements. Had they been quieter, as we parents so dearly wish at times, we may have saved ourselves the tedious task of clearing up the mess every time these little tornados leave behind.
But, alas! Contrary to what we hope for, their love of physical pursuits never stops short. Their minds are always on the lookout to process new information, and this curiosity makes them examine everything they can lay hands on. It is hard to speculate what their next to-do assignment will be. Mostly, our concern for our child’s safety urges us to stop them from undertaking many physical pursuits.
However, it is believed that the more kids participate in such tasks, the more they acquire knowledge and learn the basics. Physical activities are instrumental in teaching them to assimilate failure and subsequently work toward overcoming shortcomings. Their curiosity compels them to look out for new arenas to gather new experiences. The more their engagements are, the more they challenge their capabilities to broaden their mental abilities and multitasking horizons.
As kids explore areas that nurture their ever-growing mental capacities, their cognitive abilities unfurl. A major portion of a kid’s mental growth happens by the time they reach the age of five. Thus, our responsibility is to nurture them in the best possible ways to facilitate the best outcomes.
Apart from food and nutrition, another daily activity that is instrumental in their all-around growth is sleep. Our heart, lungs, brain, kidneys work continuously throughout the day. Sleep at night gives them the time to re-energise. Our bodies need ample sleep for the growth of sound mental health. Sleep deprivation can lead to inalterable conditions, resulting in mental health issues.
Similarly, our little ones need to get the desired hours of sleep every day. The younger the kid is, the longer he needs to sleep. During sleep, the brain not only rests but also processes all information through memory consolidation. That’s how they develop memories for smell, touch, view, sound, vocabulary, incidences, dangers, good moments, etc. The better their everyday routine is, the healthier they grow up to be. However, it is at times a struggle to put kids to sleep at regular hours.
Every kid responds differently; while some are subtle, others turn out to be quite naughty. Kids seem to hate losing out on playtime that keeps them awake and thus ensues a conflict of interest between the child and the caregiver.
I, too, used to find it hard to persuade my kid to sleep at regular timings. He is now five years old, and reasoning with him is a lot easier. However, as a toddler, it was a perpetual struggle. The ritual of tucking him to bed and getting him to sleep began with cuddling him on my lap and singing a lullaby while taking a stroll in the room. The tactic worked well most of the time, though, on several occasions, I used to fall asleep before him. It was exhausting to see him wide awake, gazing intently at the dim light, smirking, and enjoying his victory on me. With compromised sleep, I, too, felt exhausted and irritated most mornings that lasted throughout the day.
That’s when I started researching techniques to achieve better sleep. A few ways helped me get some good sleep for my child and me.
1. Maintain a sleep routine.
Having a pre-determined time for waking up and bedtime every day helps set our biological clock. Practising the habit every day from an early age proves beneficial in the long run.
Besides, family members too may plan their day accordingly as kids tend to follow habits that they observe around themselves. A disciplined timetable not only comforts them as they internalize the chronology of their daily chores but also ascertains predictability. The schedule is to be maintained even on weekends, family events, etc., to prevent disruption in routine. Moreover, a sleep routine ensures meeting the child’s daily sleep requirement, essential for their overall development. It also facilitates kids to remain active throughout the day.
2. Make sleep a priority.
Parents need to plan food and sleep intake. As soon as a child comes into our lives, delicate planning and scheduling become an indispensable part. It saves parents from overlooking fundamental tasks. It consequently gives us time to rest to keep anxiety and tiredness at bay. It is vital for us as, more often than not, unavoidable work piles up suddenly and needs our urgent attention.
Sticking to a set bedtime helps children feel secure because it offers them predictability. They start reciprocating accordingly as it allows them to get used to their surroundings promptly.
3. Limit socialising.
Unexpected family events, parties, festivals, etc., crop up in our lives, and it’s lucrative to include kids in these ceremonies, but their participation must be limited. Often, we fail to maintain this and let kids’ routines be disrupted at the cost of losing sleep time, compromising on meals, etc.
This leads to a disruption in their Circadian Rhythm (a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours), which often leads to slouching, restlessness, and sickness. Kids tend to get into a sense of discomfort due to such unexpected fluctuations in their routine.
Our parents too limited socializing during our childhood to give quality time to us. They took it upon themselves to let us feel their absolute dedication in giving us the best. This additionally ensured a peaceful atmosphere, which is essential for a good sleep. Kids need to spend quality time with parents or caregivers to grow up healthily.
4. Ensure ample sleep as per age.
It is a well-researched fact that mental development in kids occurs the most from birth until five years of age. As the brain works non-stop, it must be given good rest to perform to its best ability. Also, the brain processes all information gathered during the day while at sleep. Infants need to sleep for around 16 hours, and with the advancement of age, the duration reduces. By the age of five, kids need to have 8 to 10 hours of sleep, including nap time and night sleep. Insufficient sleep makes them feel groggy, and they may get cranky, deterring their daytime activities.
5. No screen time before bed.
This point has been all over the internet given that kids nowadays have access to mobile and the internet. Also, the pandemic has forced us to impart education through the internet. Prolonged exposure to mobile screens is detrimental to their eyes and also limits their creativity. Watching shows on mobile phones takes no mental and physical effort than reading a picture book or colouring. It also makes them lazy, detached from the real world and prevents them from being involved in daily chores. If unaddressed, this can result in childhood obesity as they cannot burn out their natural physical energy. Watching cartoons, etc., before heading to the bed coils up their thoughts, and they find it difficult to settle down on the bed. This can give kids nightmares.
6. Bed and clothing.
A clean bed looks inviting for a good sleep. Keep the bed clutter-free from toys, stuffed animals, extra cushions, etc. Change bed linen weekly to ensure cleanliness and keep it free from odour, dust mites, bed moths, etc. Cotton bedsheets and cotton pillow covers should be used for their quality and comfort.
Besides using pillows, one may also place bolsters on both sides to give kids a sense of security. A clean and pretty blanket can help keep them warm. You can use nappies at night to avoid sleep interruption due to bedwetting. Older toddlers are to be brought into a habit to attend nature’s call before heading to sleep. Parents should also assist kids in relieving themselves at least once during the night sleep time. Likewise, clothing is to be given priority. A change into a set of clean, fresh, and loose-fitting cotton nightwear is necessary to ward off any discomfort during sleep.
7. Pre-bedtime activities.
It is not about the quantity but the quality of time a parent spends with their kids. Gone are the days when we had ample time after work to spend with our extended family. With nuclear families, the responsibilities of each family member increase. Children often feel ignored if we do not spend quality time with them during their growing years, which may impact their personality and development.
It is important to contribute to building moments that shall be etched as beautiful memories during their childhood. Do take out as little as half an hour before sleep to focus on the child. Engage in conversations about the day, their fears, anxieties, happy moments, etc. Be sure to be a good listener.
Storytelling is a good way to engage with kids. It lets them settle down before bedtime, helps them learn vocabulary, and improves their creative thinking. Kids, too, face insecurities; they too have moments of stress. This is also a great way to let them know that they have your support when things aren’t working fine.
8. Calm them down with touch therapy.
As kids are active, helping them calm down is essential before settling them down to bed. Human touch can comfort human beings, which specifically works wonders with kids. A bear hug, a peck on the cheek, soft ruffling of their hair – all have one thing in common, i.e., comfort and love offered through touch. Every child has a different choice, and the caregiver has to anticipate the best way to show their love for them. A gentle kneading massage for the tired little hands and legs can prove to be a boon for many. A warm sponge bath works great to level down the temperament of the kids. Strolling with them in your lap is one activity that never ceases to calm kids. Few like to get caressed on their belly and back. Understanding what they prefer shall assist parents in delivering a beautiful experience to their kids.
We cannot control every aspect of our environment. Loudspeakers, horn honkers, bright light, traffic, loud chats, electricity disruption, and many more are beyond our scope to evade. However, we can change our habits and routines and adjust to the environment around us. A mix and match of the above techniques have been a blessing to me, and today it is a part of my daily routine. A persistent commitment towards maintaining a rhythm ensures good health too. However, in some rare cases, counselling is worthwhile in dealing with sleep difficulties, insomnia due to big changes in life, death, separation, health issues, etc.
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