NHS doctor and TV personality, Dr Ranj, has visited schools across London to talk to pupils and parents about the importance of a good night’s sleep. Here, he gives his top sleep tips.
A staggering 50% of children and 40% of adults will have an issue with sleep in their lifetime, whether that be getting to sleep or staying asleep through the night.
Alongside this, studies have shown that if children struggle to sleep, so do their parents. With this in mind, Dr Ranj has been focusing on sleep health for the whole family and discussing simple steps that can be taken to establish a good bedtime routine.
The educational assemblies have been organised by Furniture Village in collaboration with the Sleep Charity and form part of a wider mission to support the nation when it comes to sleep.
Sleep Tips for Children by Dr Ranj
Dr Ranj said: “As a doctor, I know that sleep is as essential for health as a balanced diet and regular exercise. Whilst children learn about the importance of nutrition and movement, it struck me that they aren’t taught the importance of a good night’s sleep.” Here are his top sleep tips.
Create a Sleep-ready Environment
The place where children sleep can affect how well they sleep – it needs to be calm and sleep-friendly. Ideally it should be cool, comfortable (think bed, pillow, duvet), dark, dry and quiet.
If you have a child that is visually or hearing impaired, then sleeping in total darkness may be disorientating. Consider how their bed feels and whether it meets their sensory needs.
Keep Them Active During the Day
Try to encourage your child to be as active as they can during the daytime, so they can relax in the evening. This means they are more likely to be ready to sleep at the end of the day. It also trains the brain and body to go into sleep mode every night.
Create a Calming Bedtime Routine
Have a consistent bedtime routine every evening before going to bed. Offer quiet activities such as a nice warm bath, a book to read or share a story, drawing, colouring or even jigsaws to help them feel calm and relaxed before bed.
A visual timetable can help, especially for children with SEND, to show what is going to happen next during the bedtime routine.
Set a Bedtime
Try to keep a schedule for bedtime and wake-up time. This helps our bodies get into a pattern. Our brains like patterns too!
Reduce Liquids Before Sleep
Make sure they don’t drink too much before they go to bed otherwise they could end up waking up in the middle of the night needing to use the toilet! Having a wee and brushing teeth should be a part of their bedtime routine.
Reduce Screen Time
Discourage the use of electronic devices (like tablets, gaming devices or phones) for at least an hour before bedtime. These can keep children awake by stimulating them and reducing melatonin production.
Melatonin is the sleep hormone that helps us all fall asleep and research suggests that some children with SEND may not produce enough or may release it later in the evening.
Maintain a Positive Mood Before Sleep
Bedtime should ideally be a positive experience. If your child finds it hard to get off to sleep, try to encourage them to think of nice things that have happened during the day or things they are looking forward to. Don’t get them too over-excited though as that might keep them awake.
Avoid Food Before Sleep
Likewise, eating too close to bedtime can also upset sleep. If children do get hungry, they can have a small snack rather than a big meal. Ideal snacks are crackers and cheese, low sugar cereal or some wholemeal toast. Avoid anything sugar-loaded.
Help Alleviate any Fears
If your child is really worried about something and it’s stopping them falling asleep, try to have a conversation earlier in the evening before bedtime. Or, if they find it hard to talk, ask them to write down their worries or even draw them and share them with you this way.
Be on the Lookout for Sleep Disorders
Explore reasons for your child’s sleep issues. If you are really struggling then speak to a healthcare professional. Children with additional needs, for example, may need more individualised and specialist support.
The first assembly took place on Monday 16th May and saw Dr Ranj speak parents and pupils at Trafalgar Junior School, Twickenham.
Georgina Oxlade, a Year One mum at Trafalgar Junior School attended the talk and said: “The information that The Sleep Charity and Dr Ranj shared will be practical for both my children to help improve their quality of sleep.”
Dr Ranj has worked closely with Furniture Village and the Sleep Charity on a number of key campaigns, including the introduction of the UK’s first National Sleep Helpline. Launched in September 2021, the free service is operated by specialist trained advisors and aims to provide support and guidance for those struggling to sleep.
Lisa Artis, Deputy CEO of the Sleep Charity, says: “It’s never too early to start talking about the value of a good night’s sleep, which is why we are delighted to be able to facilitate the assemblies with Dr Ranj and Furniture Village.
“Working in partnership with families is at the heart of what we do, so being able to talk directly to parents and pupils is an invaluable opportunity to spread the word about the support that’s available to them.”
For more information, visit thesleepcharity.org.uk. Those looking for help can call the National Sleep Helpline on 03303 530 540 (Sunday–Thursday, 7–9pm).
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