Sleep is an integral part of a person’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.
So it is no wonder that sleep is a critical contributor to development for children and adolescents. Young people require more sleep than adults, often needing 9-11 hours of sleep per night.
However, maintaining healthy sleep patterns and routines can be a struggle for many individuals. This difficulty is often amplified for children and adolescents over the summer, when routine and structure may change or disappear from their day-to-day schedules.
Frequent concerns from parents are not only that their child is falling/staying asleep, but obtaining enough sleep to function well throughout the day.
Ways to improve sleep or maintain good sleep habits for children and adolescents begins with a healthy sleep routine.
A sleep routine consists of the behaviors and activities that lead to a person becoming tired, going to bed, and falling asleep. These routines are individualized, so a one person’s routine would be specific to what helps him/her become calm and ready for rest during the night. Sleep routines give our mind cues that sleep is happening soon, and can even impact the release of sleep chemicals in the brain, such as melatonin.
Below are factors to consider when maintaining a sleep routine and healthy sleep environment:
Behaviors to occur prior to bedtime
● Turning off devices and participate in quiet, daily evening activities (e.g., reading, drawing)
● Engage in routine tasks like putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, washing face, setting alarm clock
● Providing a consistent amount of time for engaging in sleep routine/winding down
● Begin sleep routine 30 minutes before bedtime
Atmosphere to help sleep
● Ensuring comfort levels are met (bed, pillows, blankets, pajamas, etc.)
● Optimal room temperature
● Proper amount of light in room
● Proper amount of sound present
● Necessary sleep items, such as stuffed animals, mouthguards, eye masks, etc.
SUMMER’S IMPACT ON SLEEP
Summer is often a time when children and adolescents loosen their sleep routine and schedules, often staying/waking up later, obtaining different amounts of sleep from the rest of the year, and often sleeping at different times of night (or day). Adding in structure and routine after months of loosening these activities around sleep can be challenging, especially with the impending pressure of school resuming. Here are some ways in which you can prepare your child or adolescent for returning to a regular sleep schedule/routine:
● For every hour your child is sleeping past their typical bedtime, plan to spend one week shifting back their bedtime, having your child go to bed 15 minutes earlier than the previous night every couple of nights.
● For adolescents who are going to bed very late (such as the early morning) and waking very late (in the afternoon), it may be worth considering having them stay up for the night and then begin sleeping at a more reasonable time the following evening, not allowing sleep until the bedtime occurs the next day. They will be very tired, but it is often a much faster way to change a sleep schedule for extreme changes in sleep schedules.
Returning to sleep routine
Begin participating in a normal sleep routine leading up to bedtime, as your child or adolescent would during the school year. This may include:
● Setting an alarm
● Preparing for the next day (e.g., laying out clothes, making lunch)
● Nighttime hygiene/routines
● Discontinuing use of devices 30 minutes before bedtime
START SCHOOL RIGHT
Sleep is a challenge for many, and it is not uncommon for your child to resist changes or additions to structure related to sleep. Plan to begin adjusting sleep for the school year approximately 1-2 weeks prior to the start of school. As difficult as this change will be for you and your child to put in place, you will feel better making those changes once the school year begins.
If you still feel like you aren’t sure how to best support your child, teen or young adult. Child and Family Solutions Center is here to help. Please call us at 248-851-5437 to get started with therapy services.