Sleep and Your Child's Behavior

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Who doesn’t love the feeling of a long, restful night’s sleep? It’s often called beauty sleep, and for a good reason—sleep matters for your overall health and well-being. And that’s true as a child and as an adult! 

It’s important to view sleep from two angles: length and quality of sleep. When either is affected, it usually negatively impacts your child’s behavior. With a focus on helping your child get a good night’s sleep, you can bring out the best in your child.

In this blog, we will learn how sleep and children’s behavior are connected and helpful strategies to help your child achieve quality sleep.

Discover BLOOM’s course on Sleep to help your child achieve a quality night’s sleep.

A Story About Sleep

Mrs. Simms came to see Miriam Manela Frankel OTR/L TC because her 7-year-old daughter was wild and out of control. Amy constantly touched the other kids and raced around the house, creating a wild and unruly atmosphere for everyone. She was also a picky eater, choosing only to eat dairy, carbs, and sweets all day. At night the child kept popping out of bed asking for things and waking the other children. Amy’s body couldn’t seem to settle down until after 10 pm. Mr. and Mrs. Simms needed time for themselves and had no energy or patience at that hour to deal with her insomnia. 

Mrs. Simms and Miriam discussed the vital role sleep plays in preparing us for our tasks the next day so we can focus and put our energy into what we have to do. It can also help improve our ability to learn. For some children, sleep comes easily at the end of a long, active day. For others, their batteries seem forever charged.

Sleep Length Versus Sleep Quality

Getting adequate sleep helps protect a person’s mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety. 

There are two important aspects of sleep: how much a person sleeps and the quality of that sleep. Depending on their age, people require different hours of sleep. To understand healthy ranges, this chart provides some basic numbers.

Generally, the required hours of sleep decrease as a person ages. School-age children need at least 10 hours of sleep, and teens need 9-10 hours. The average adult requires 6-8 hours to squeeze the most out of every day. 

Sleep quality is just as important (if not more) than the number of hours one sleeps. An important factor in having a night of uninterrupted sleep is what one does before bed. This is called sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene entails bringing down the excitement and making the environment relaxing. 

How to Achieve Good Sleep Hygiene

There are a few components of sleep hygiene that can be helpful when trying to put your child to sleep:

  1.   Filling meals. Having a good and filling dinner or a snack before bed can make a person more relaxed and ready to sleep.
  1.   Rocking or massage. These provide sensations that are calming to the body. Gentle motions and deep pressure can help a child relax, which prepares them for sleep.
  1.   Hemi-sync music. Hemi-Sync is a company that produces neuroscience-based audio recordings to help ease the listener through physical and emotional challenges and difficulty falling asleep.
  2.   Aromatherapy. Similar to rocking or massage, certain types of smells can either stimulate or calm the brain. Vanilla, lavender, and banana are prime examples of calming scents. You can put these scents on a pillowcase, nightstand, or nearby.
  1.   Warm baths. Before bed, give the child a 15-20 minute warm bath, plus a rub down with a towel (if the child likes it). A warm bath calms and relaxes the body, making it easier to fall asleep. Adding 1-1.5 cups of Epsom salt adds extra relaxation to the body.
  1.   No devices before bed. Try to put away or have your child put down any technology devices (iPad, computers, TV, video games, etc.) 1-2 hours before bed. The lit screen and games stimulate their vision and may cause too much excitement, affecting their ability to fall asleep and the quality of their sleep. 
  1.   Melatonin. Melatonin is a natural hormone that your body produces once the sun sets. It makes you feel less alert and preps the body for sleep. If you’ve tried the other seven items listed with no success, try having your child take ¼ - ½ mg melatonin before bed.
  1.   Bedtime hypnosis stories. Miriam recommends “Children’s Hypnosis Bedtime Stories” by Elaine Martin which can be found on YouTube. 


    Better Sleep for Children

    How did Amy’s story end?

    Aside from once-a-week therapy, Mrs. Simms instituted a sleep schedule that included giving Amy a warm bath with Epsom salts, giving Amy therapeutic massages that Miriam taught her, and finishing up with a cute hypnosis bedtime story by Elaine Martin, told with background music.  After only two weeks, Mrs. Simms noted a significant improvement in all the areas of concern! Amy began falling asleep by 8:30 PM, stayed asleep throughout the night, and was calmer throughout most of the day. 

    If your child also has difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and regulating energy levels throughout the day, please try a combination of ideas.

    Online Resources for Helping Your Child With Sleep

    When you become a parent, you understand that sleep may be few and far between in the newborn months. However, if your child is a toddler or elementary-aged child and still struggling with sleep, it’s time for you to seek help.

    With help from BLOOM, say goodbye to bedtime frustrations and midnight child-in-my-bed visits. Discover the easiest, least stressful, most holistic way to address your child’s sleep challenges with BLOOM’s Sleep course.

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