Sleep difficulties in primary aged children are very common. However, a good night’s sleep will help your child to be healthy and happy. So it’s really important to support them to get a good night’s sleep.
How much does my child need?
The amount of sleep needed differs between different age groups. As a guide, aim for around:
Why is sleep so important?
Sleep helps the body to recover and repair, and is vital for us. Some other reasons why sleep is so important include:
- Growth hormone (GH) is released during sleep, which helps your child to grow
- Helps children to function and aids mental health
- Lowers the risk of becoming overweight
- Supports your child’s ability to learn and concentrate
- Reduces the likelihood of challenging behaviour
Your child’s sleep environment
- Children need darkness to help them produce melatonin (sleep hormone). Use blackout blinds or thick curtains, and dimmer lights or night lights if your child is scared of the dark.
- A cool environment is ideal for sleep; around 16-18 degrees celsius is ideal.
- Remove screens from their bedroom, such as a TV, tablets and phones. Using technology prior to sleep slows the release of melatonin, making it harder for your child to sleep.
- Limit the availability of toys at night time or consider a designated ‘sleep toy’ to take to bed, such as a favourite soft toy.
Your children’s emotional health
In the evenings, children often think about their day and the next day. This can make them worry, which may lead to them staying awake and having difficulty getting to sleep. Try to set aside a time to talk and listen to your child and help them manage their feelings.
A child can write or draw their worries and put them into a worry monster. Or, with help from a grownup, can think about the positives from their day and what to look forward to the next day.
Being active for 60 minutes or more each day will help your child to sleep better. Fresh air and a play at the local park may help them settle for a good night’s sleep.
Bedtime routines are really important for establishing good sleep patterns. A bedtime routine will help your child prepare for sleep, and should be followed in the same order each night. This is an opportunity to give your child one-to-one special time.
An example of a bedtime routine would be:
- Calm play time
- Bath and clean teeth
- Story time or listening to calming music
Try to maintain this as well as possible, even in the school holidays. This helps your child’s body clock get into a regular rhythm.
My child wakes throughout the night, why is this and what can I do to help them?
Night time waking, or restlessness, can happen when there is a change in a child’s life. This might include starting school, moving house or separations, which can bring on feelings of fear and worry.
Ways to help:
- If your child wakes during the night, go to them and quietly re-settle them in their own bed.
- Simply say ‘bed time now’, and try to not engage them in conversation; just tuck them in, and walk away using the same method when putting them to sleep in the evening.
- During the day, talk to your child about the night time waking, and ask their ideas on how to make it better. Children often come up with good ways to self-help.
- As a parent/carer, children just need you to be there for them, to listen to their worries and comfort them, even though you may not have the answers or a magic wand!
You can also contact your school nurse for further advice and support, or get in touch with a health professional through ChatHealth.