World Sleep Day: 4 ways parents can help kids get a better night's sleep
Friday, March 15 marks World Sleep Day 2019, held each year to celebrate sleep and raise awareness of how important it is for good health. With increasing concern that children and teenagers are not getting enough sleep, which can impact both physical and mental health as well as academic performance, here we round up expert advice and research on how parents can encourage kids to get more shut-eye.
BE STRICT ABOUT BEDTIME
A 2017 Canadian study found that parents who set rules about bedtime can help their children get more shut-eye. After looking at 1,622 parents with at least one child under the age of 18 years old, the researchers found that children of parents who were strict with bedtime were 59% more likely to meet Canadian sleep guidelines on a weekday, compared to children of parents who just encouraged a set bedtime.
CUT DOWN ON SCREEN TIME
As the use of screens increases, so does the number of studies looking at their effect on our health, with many finding that they could be to blame for a lack of sleep, particularly in children and teens. European research published earlier this year found that children who use screens in the dark before bedtime are less likely to get enough sleep, and also get lower quality sleep, than those who use screens in a well-lit room, while a study that looked at 278 children with an average age of four also found that too much screen time was associated with a shorter night's sleep and taking a longer daytime nap, in particular when children were caught sneakily using screens when they should be sleeping.
IT'S OK IF BABIES SLEEP IN PARENTS' BEDROOMS
Despite a common belief that allowing babies to sleep in the parental bedroom encourages a baby's dependency on their parents, research published last year suggested that babies who sleep in their parents' bedroom for the first six months of life have no increased risk of sleeping problems or behavioural problems later in childhood at age six to eight, and in fact, sleeping in the parental room may actually have a positive effect, including improved sleep quality.
ENCOURAGE TEENS TO EAT A HEALTHY DIET
A large-scale study published last year which looked at 177,091 Greek children age 8 to 17 found that not only did around 40% of the children fail to get enough sleep, but that across both males and females and all age ranges unhealthy dietary habits including skipping breakfast, eating fast-food, and consuming sweets regularly, as well as being overweight or obese and too much screen time, were all associated with a lack of sleep.