Free online course for separated parents
Forum - Ask questions. Get answers.
Free online course for separated parents | Family | Health | Children’s Mental Health Week- the importance of good sleep

Children’s Mental Health Week- the importance of good sleep

Maya Griffiths

Maya Griffiths

Parents regularly fret over the affects of social media, peer pressure and school stress on their child’s mental health. However, good sleep is just as vital, and often overlooked.

Children who are lacking quality sleep can veer between excitable and snappy, and struggle to concentrate. Anxiety and depression can develop, and their immune system becomes less effective. A study by the University of Maryland found that children aged 5-11 who got less than the recommended amount of sleep displayed greater mental health problems, as well as difficulties with memory and problem solving.

Whether you’ve got a difficult 5 year old or a grumpy teen, there are ways to help them get better sleep.

Sleep hygiene

The ways in which we approach bedtime is referred to as ‘sleep hygiene’. Examples of good sleep hygiene include:

  • stopping use of electronics an hour before bed
  • lowering the lights
  • taking a soothing bath
  • reading a book.

These are all helpful tactics for both adults and children. Other helpful sleep hygiene strategies for children and teens include:

  • keeping a regular bedtime
  • a healthy diet, and consuming only ‘sleepy foods’ in the hours before bed (see below)
  • turning down the heating- around 18 degrees Celsius is optimum bedroom temperature
  • using blackout blinds to make the room darker
  • using a night light if children are scared of the dark
  • having a wind-down period before sleep; maybe try listening to children’s meditations together.

‘Sleepy’ foods

Sleepy foods help the body produce melatonin, which aids restful sleep. The following sleepy foods are the best choices in the hours before bed:

  • warm milk (but not hot chocolate)
  • yogurt
  • chicken or fish
  • bananas
  • apples
  • blueberries
  • strawberries
  • brown bread
  • peanuts
  • cashews
  • sunflower seeds.

Make sure that portions of sleepy foods aren’t too large to avoid bedtime indigestion.

Sleep disorders in children

Children can sometimes suffer from sleep disorders including nightmares, night terrors or sleep walking. These disorders can often run hand-in-hand with mental health problems.

If your child has a nightmare or night terror, calmly reassure them that they are safe, and when they feel more relaxed they will usually go back to sleep.

1 in 3 children will have an episode of sleep walking by the age of 13. If it becomes a recurring problem, you may wish to take safety precautions such as installing stair gates to prevent falls.

If you find your child has an ongoing problem with a sleep disorder, contact your GP for advice.

Related entries

Survey results: You told us how tough it is to be a dad

Survey results: You told us how tough it is to be a dad

In September we asked you a number of questions about how you cope with fatherhood. The honesty in your replies highlights the startling reality that dads face- increased stress, and a chronic lack of support. You also shared with us your thoughts about what stops you...

Body dysmorphia: the growing mental illness in teens

Body dysmorphia: the growing mental illness in teens

While you're likely aware of the rising problems in young people around anxiety and depression, you may not have heard of body dysmorphia. Sadly, rates are dramatically on the rise amongst teens. With the constant glare of social media and pressures to conform to...

Latest entries

County lines: what is it and how can you protect your child?

County lines: what is it and how can you protect your child?

You may have heard the term 'county lines'- it describes criminal activity involving the exploitation of children. Sadly many thousands of young people become embroiled in county lines every year. Here's a guide to what you need to know and how to protect your child:...

Pin It on Pinterest