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Sleep plays such an important role in the lives of children, it is just as important as their nutrition, safety and health but can often be overlooked. Children require a lot more sleep than adults as they are continuously learning and developing and an incredible rate, but it is worth bearing in mind that The Sleep Council recommend that sleep quality is more important than the quantity. The amount of sleep children need gradually decreases with age. Sleep is restorative for adults and children alike, but it also plays a role in a child’s development, as this is when they grow. A quality night’s sleep refers to achieving an uninterrupted and peaceful sleep of the recommended duration.

Children’s behaviour, memory and social skills mature significantly during sleep. Therefore, sleep-deprived children may not develop and learn to their full potential, and their physical health could be compromised too. Sleep disorders can occur as a result of lack of sleep in the early years and lead to further behavioural problems such as ADHD and lower mood in children. In order to learn and absorb new information, the brain requires a certain amount of sleep. The ability of children to learn effectively can be determined by the quality of sleep. In addition to this, further health problems can occur as a lack of sleep can lower the immune system. Insufficient sleep can also put children at risk of diabetes and obesity. If you’re concerned about the amount of sleep your child is getting there are a few steps you can take to encourage a better night’s sleep.

1. No screens

Screens are not only a distraction from sleep, but they also stimulate the brain making it harder to fall asleep at night. The blue light emitted from devices such as TV’s, phones and tablets has a detrimental effect on the natural sleep cycle as it disrupts the body’s production of melatonin; the hormone which is necessary to begin the sleep cycle. It is best to keep a child’s room screen free and limit screen time to end at least an hour before bedtime.

2. Set a routine

Having a bedtime routine encourages a better and more peaceful bedtime experience. A set routine allows children the time to unwind, calm down and prepare for sleep. A bedtime routine which is conducive to sleep could include steps such as having a bath and reading a bedtime story.

3. Optimum environment

The sleep environment is key to a quality night’s sleep. Consider the temperature, aromas and comfort levels. Firstly, ensure your child is well supported in their bed and that they feel comfortable and at ease in their room, as this is incredibly important. The optimum room temperature is 16-18°c as this is cool enough for the body to enter its natural sleep cycle. In terms of aroma, to create a peaceful sleeping environment you could introduce natural essential oils such as lavender or jasmine, as these are known to promote sleep and relaxation.

Sleep is massively important in children’s health and wellbeing, taking the time to ensure they are getting the best sleep possible is a necessary step to ensure they grow to be healthy and happy.

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