Here, I’ll provide tips on helping babies and children get a better nights sleep and talk about the connection between sleep and mental health for children.
With national lockdowns, homeschooling, isolation and social distancing, the last year has been really tough for us all. Unsettled children can effect the the wellbeing of the whole family, so it’s particularly important that we keep a close eye on the mental health of kids during the pandemic, and do all we can to make sure they’re thriving as they should.
LACK OF SLEEP CAN CAUSE LOW MOOD AND LEARNING DIFFICULTIES IN CHILDREN
Pre-school children need around 10-11 hours of sleep per day. It probably won’t come as a surprise that sleep quality goes hand in hand with children’s mental health. We’ve all been on the receiving end of a grumpy, emotional overtired baby or toddler. But it’s not just a short-term issue, poor sleep quality has been closely linked to depression, anxiety, behaviour issues and poor cognitive performance, including learning difficulties, in children. Over time a continued lack of sleep can contribute to anxiety and depression, even up to one year later (Science Daily, source: University of Warwick).
HOW TO ESTABLISH BETTER SLEEP FOR BABIES AND CHILDREN
Choosing the best sleepwear and bedding for babies and children
When choosing baby sleeping bags, blankets and toddler duvets for your little ones, the outer fabric is very important, but it’s mainly about what’s inside, and here’s why:
As the filling makes up the majority of the fabric, it’s really important that it’s a high quality, natural fabric which is going to help regulate body temperature and promote safer sleep for babies and kids. Synthetic fabrics such as polyester inside a duvet or sleeping bag are not breathable and can easily cause overheating and sweaty nights, while not keeping in the warmth on cooler evenings. For this reason, baby sleeping bags with polyester wadding will have a very small window of recommended room temperatures, and you’ll need to change the tog of your sleeping bag with every 2-3°C temperature change.
The best baby sleeping bags are those which use 100% natural fabrics, such as bamboo, cotton, wool and feather as these have a much greater breathability than their synthetic counterparts, so look for baby and children’s bedding that avoids polyester and favours these materials instead.
These organic baby sleeping bags use natural fabrics inside and out, with a unique bamboo wadding for ultimate temperature control. Helping your babies get a better nights sleep.
Create a sleep friendly environment for your child
It’s really important to create a calm and relaxing environment in your child’s room. I always recommend keeping toys and distracting objections out of the bedroom, and keeping clutter to a minimum.
Keeping your child’s bedroom dark is really important. It enables the body to produce natural melatonin which will help children fall asleep and stay asleep for longer. With winter almost behind us in the northern hemisphere, and mornings getting lighter, make sure you’re blocking out the morning light because this will naturally stimulate the ‘awake’ mechanisms in your child’s body.
There’s a great blog post which talks more about melatonin and how a dark environment will help babies sleep better, written by a leading child sleep expert Susan Wallace, here: Why your baby should sleep in a dark room.
Also it’s worth remembering that if you’re trying to block out light from a bedroom, the best baby blackout blinds are non-toxic ones. PVC blinds should be avoided as they leach toxic chemicals into the air, especially when in direct sunlight. They’re really not something you should have hanging in your child’s room. Aside from the health implications of this, it will also have a negative impact on your child’s sleep quality. Choosing organic cotton blackout blinds is a great option as they can be left up in direct sunlight and don’t give off any harmful gasses. Find out more about non-toxic blackout blinds here.
Establishing an evening routine for babies
I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but creating an evening routine can really help children wind down for bedtime and prepare for sleep. I recommend a warm bath followed by pyjamas and quiet reading in a dimly-lit room, plenty of family cuddles and no screen time for at least 2 hours before bed. Do whatever works best for your family, but consistency is key.
Establishing set sleep queues can also be really important, like putting them in their baby sleeping bag or giving them their favourite teddy comforter or lovely before story time, or whatever it is which will help your child know that bedtime is coming. Keep this regular so they know what to expect.
FURTHER HELP WITH BABY’S SLEEP
If you’re having trouble getting your baby to get enough sleep then there are lots of amazing sleep consultants you can reach out to for help. My personal favourite (and I’ve spoken to so many!) is the hugely talented baby sleep consultant Susan Wallace of Settled Petals who has won awards and national acclaim for helping babies and children get more sleep, and I love that she does this with each individual family’s preferences in mind.