Trying to get babies, toddlers, and young kids to sleep might be one of the biggest challenges of parenthood – at least it can seem that way! But research is showing more and more how beneficial sleep is to kids and their overall health. If we realized the impact of sleep deprivation on our kids, we would probably be more likely to help them get the rest their bodies need.
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Healthy sleep for kids is important for a lot of reasons. Adequate sleep helps:
- Boost the immune system
- Promote healthy growth
- Increase attention span
- Increase learning
Making sure your kids get adequate sleep is one of the best things you can do for them – and it’s probably more important than most of us realize. Their little bodies need sleep to help them thrive. It’s when their brains catalogue everything that happened during the day, and it lets their bodies heal and grow.
Lack of sleep for kids can be devastating. It can lead to:
- Obesity in children
- Lowered immune system
- Hyperactivity, which closely resembles ADHD
The symptoms of ADHD and sleep deprivation are actually almost identical – both cause kids to be more impulsive and more distractible, which can lead to trouble learning and focusing issues in school.
At our house, sleep is non-negotiable. It took some work to make it happen, but the benefits have been worth it. Well rested kids mean fewer tantrums and melt downs, healthier bodies with stronger immune systems, and better focus at school and when they’re playing.
You can help your kids get better rest, too. Here’s how:
- Exercise – Making sure kids have gotten their exercise and burned off extra energy during the day is a great way to prepare them for going to sleep at night.
- Avoid caffeine and sugar before bed – Eliminating caffeine and sweets at least 3 hours before bedtime will help kids settle down for sleep more easily.
- Make a peaceful sleeping environment – Set the stage for sleep to happen. Eliminate screens, technology, and other distractions from the room. Make sure it’s dark and quiet, or use a sound machine for white noise. (We started using a sound machine for our boys when they were pretty little – they had a hard time sleeping if it was too quiet, but could easily sleep through the noise of the shower or vacuum cleaner. This sound machine has 6 different sound options and is our favorite!)
- Bedtime routine – Create a simple and consistent bedtime routine. That might mean a bath, story, and a couple of songs before lights out. Having the same routine each night will let them know night time is coming and it’s time to sleep.
- Have an early bedtime – Most kids are wired to go to bed early. This is hard when our days are so full and we’re rushing to fit everything in, but putting your kids to bed even 30 minutes earlier in the evening will have a huge impact!
Nailing down a good bedtime routine for our kids came pretty easily for us. But when our oldest was just under 2 years old he started waking up earlier and earlier – it got to the point where he was waking up for the day around 4:30. It was rough, but he had no way of knowing it was too early to start the day.
We were pretty desperate to help him start sleeping in later, and that’s when we found the Ok to Wake! Alarm Clock. This clock was a definite game changer for us! We set the clock for the time it was ok for him to get up in the morning, and when the clock’s light turned on he knew it was time to wake up for the day.
We wanted to set ourselves up for success, so the night before we started using the Ok to Wake! clock we talked about it a lot and had a few practice rounds so our little guy would know what to expect when it turned on the next morning. We had him lay in his bed and set the clock for 1 or 2 minutes. He laid there quietly, and when the clock turned on he knew it was ok to get up. This really helped him get used to it and helped him remember what to do the next morning if he woke up before his clock lit up.
We decided a good wake up time for him would be 6:45, so he’d be able to see his daddy before he left for work. Since he had been waking up so.early, we knew it wasn’t realistic to set the clock for 6:45 right away. The first few mornings we set the clock to light up at 5:00, and when he had that down we bumped it to 5:30 for a few nights, then 6:00, 6:30, and after about a week he was finally sleeping all the way until 6:45.
Our boys are 4 and 6 years old now, and they still use their Ok to Wake! clocks. Most of the time they sleep right up until their clock lights up. Some mornings they wake up earlier, but they know they need to stay in their beds quietly until their clock turns on.
Helping our kids establish healthy sleep habits is so important for their developing brains and growing bodies. It’s an easy (and free!) thing we can give them, and the benefits of good sleep make the effort of an early bedtime and a good bedtime routine more than worth it.