This is a guest post from the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition and Allison Boyce.
Sleep is one of our most important basic needs for our little ones and now with all the screen time and internet use out there, this seems to be one of our most difficult needs that isn’t getting met. With all of the games and apps, sleep time seems to continue to decline and ends up affecting our children throughout their day, and especially at night.
What we tend to see with our kids and these games/apps is the opposite of what we want to have occur during the evening. They get amped up, excited or maybe upset from chatting with a friend, raising their blood pressure and keeping them up longer periods of time. With the lack of sleep, our kids might feel more agitated, groggy, hard to focus, difficulty managing their emotions or making good decisions.
For older youth and adults, it is easier to distract the mind with a screen rather than be in bed with the worries or concerns they might still have lingering and we can be very vulnerable at night with our thoughts. Some of these thoughts might possibly be about upsetting events that still affect us, regrets, or worries of the next day and so we grab that screen or watch the television until the late hours of the night, affecting the next day.
What are some ways we can help improve our sleep and our children’s quality of sleep? Here are some tips that just might help.
Create a healthy routine in the evening – The mind and body connection is a powerful thing. When we move into the same activities every night before going to bed our mind recognizes that and our body naturally will get tired. Routines also help create a sense of security and safety for our children. Another important part of creating a routine is doing your best to get them to bed at the same time every night, even on the weekends.
Incorporate calming/soothing activities into the routine – Some of these activities could include a warm bath/shower, brushing teeth, reading a book to them or having them read a book to you.
Be mindful – Try a relaxation strategy with your kids. Some strategies might include stretching and breathing, using some good smelling lotion before bedtime that they enjoy. Another strategy could be incorporating some deep breathing exercises. By allowing ourselves to breathe deeply we are clearing our minds of racing thoughts and decreasing any tension we might have throughout the body.
Adjust the environment to fit their needs – Some kids prefer a cooler environment for bed such as the window open. Some kids might want it warmer so adding thicker blankets and or a heater can help. White noise can also be beneficial whether it’s relaxation music or even just the noise of a fan. Others might want a quieter environment. Also, certain relaxing smells/sprays that they enjoy can be beneficial. Talk with your child about what they would like to help them sleep better.
Worry earlier in the day – To help decrease those racing thoughts of ours or our children, try allowing 15-20 minutes during the day to process these thoughts. Writing out our thoughts or thinking about solutions can help us deal with stress in a healthy way and not interfere with our or our children’s sleep later. For younger children, have them verbally share at the dinner table, or earlier in the evening.
Limit screen time – Research suggests that we try to stop using any screens (cell phones, computers, television etc.…) two hours prior to bedtime. The blue light that comes from our screens actually affects our quality of sleep we get.
If we can try even just one tool to incorporate into our kiddo’s nighttime routine, it might just make a world of difference for them, and you, the following day!
Healthy Minds is a monthly column coordinated by Ketchikan Wellness Coalition as a way to share positive stories from people living with mental illness, offer information from local mental health professionals about maintaining mental health in your life, and provide details on tangible activities or actions you can take to strengthen your mental wellness. If you would like to contribute to the column, please contact Romanda Simpson at firstname.lastname@example.org