I have been inspired after spending the better part of the weekend chatting to my 4 and 6 year olds about the importance of sleep, the need for early bedtimes after the incredibly late Thanksgiving night; and the signs I knew that they were tired (even if they wanted to convince me they weren’t!). Today I’m going to give some pointers on how we can talk to our kids about sleep.
As our kids move into the toddler years it is incredibly important to start the discussion about sleep. This helps them understand the need for sleep and how it affects them when they don’t get enough. Having an understanding of how important sleep is will travel with them through the years and will help them make the right decisions about sleep into adolescence. This is because they will understand just how important healthy sleep is and how good their bodies feel when they are well-rested and strive for this.
Now onto some of the most important information we need to impart to our kids about sleep:
Why do we need to sleep?
When talking to kids about why we need to sleep it is important to talk to them about not only resting our bodies but also about the important things that happen when we sleep. Simply we can tell our kids that we need to sleep for us to feel healthy, happy and to do our best. For kids who are a bit older, or ask more in-depth questions, we can then explain that when we sleep our brain does lots of work on helping us to remember all the things we learned during the day by storing them in our long term memory. Sleep also helps us fight illness and grow.
We can also discuss how we feel when we have a good night of sleep (and alternatively how we feel when we don’t). We can even choose our kids’ favorite activity and use it as an example. My kids LOVE soccer, so I could say to them: “sleep will help you have more energy to run faster and kick more goals”.
Lastly on a day to day basis, when our kids might be protesting bedtime we can say to them “You’ve had such a busy day today doing _____, ______ and ______, now your body needs some time to rest and prepare for the fun (or important) things you’ll do tomorrow”.
What happens if we don’t sleep enough?
Along with discussing the importance of sleep, it is also important to discuss what happens when we don’t get enough. This is especially useful if you have a child who is trying to fight bedtime or falling asleep.
We can tell our kids that we feel tired, cranky or clumsy when we don’t get enough sleep. This weekend, after the late Thanksgiving night, when my kids needed early nights to recover, I explained to them that I could tell they needed sleep because they were getting upset about things that normally wouldn’t bother them and that they were fighting with Mommy and Daddy when normally they are very mild-mannered kids. This feeds into another aspect of what happens when we don’t get enough sleep – kids have trouble listening to their parents or making good choices. Maybe they might be more likely to get angry or upset with their friends at recess or not listen as well to their teachers during class.
For older kids, we may want to let them know what not getting enough sleep long term can mean for them. We can explain that it can affect their ability to think properly and can, therefore, affect their ability to do well on their homework, tests and generally perform well in school.
How can we help ourselves sleep well?
It is important for kids to know that they have a role in ensuring they get a good night’s sleep. We parents can make sure we have an appropriate bedtime for them, that allows them to get the sleep they need overnight, but it is our kids that need to do the work of falling asleep. And we all know that as they get older, they have the ability to fight this. So, we can explain to them that as parents we set an appropriate bedtime to aid in them sleeping well but their job is to lay in bed, with their eyes closed and try to fall asleep.
For older kids we can talk to them about the importance of getting enough sunlight and exercise throughout the day to help them sleep, making sure they are sleepy overnight, not using technology in bed or right before bed and making sure they go to bed at a reasonable and consistent time every night.
I hope this helps you talk to your kids about sleep. It is so important to get them on board with how important sleep is. It can also be an important first step in addressing sleep issues with your kids. If you need any further help with addressing your child’s sleep issues, please feel free to reach out. I offer many different packages to suit all needs and budgets. I look forward to helping you and your kids get the sleep you need!