Sleep is a critical part of a child's wellbeing. It is essential for learning, memory, and the development of behaviors and emotions. Yet, the total amount of sleep that children are receiving is continuing to decrease. Although there are many factors, studies are finding that screen time may the biggest culprit with significant and negative impacts on children’s sleep. This trend is especially true in the summer months when schedules are more relaxed and bedtimes are extended, allowing for an increased exposure to screen time.
It may not be practical for you children to completely avoid screen time, but there are easy ways to manage it while helping them to develop healthy sleep habits.
No Screens in Bedrooms.
Start by establishing one important ground rule; no electronics with screens in their bedroom. Remind your kids that their bedroom is a place to relax, reflect, and wind-down. By setting this standard, your children will begin to appreciate having a special room of their own that is free from noise and stimulation.
Look for Alternatives.
Do your best to promote activities and play time away from screens. It can be exhausting, however, if you are building blocks, playing dress up, and digging in the sandbox all day with your toddler. When you need a break, look for other ways to help your little ones occupy themselves. Listening to music is a great option. Young kids love to jump, bounce and shake. Put on some fun and catchy beats and watch your toddler move with delight. You can also play audiobooks. Hearing and listening will help with language skills, and imagination. Design a comfy space where your little one can play with a few toys while listening to an age-appropriate story.
Encourage Reading Before Bed.
You can start this practice at any age, regardless if your child is actually reading. The simple act of holding books and flipping pages sets an excellent foundation for their future love of reading. Having your child “read” to their favorite stuffed animals is a great activity that will encourage your child to develop their creativity, as well as their nurturing side.
Wind it Down.
Do not allow screen time for at least 1-2 hours before bedtime. This is the time it takes most children to come down out of that un-natural state of stimulation. By removing screens prior to bedtime, your children will be able to effectively unwind before attempting to fall asleep.
Establish a Bedtime Routine.
So you now have an hour or two to fill before bedtime. This is the perfect time to begin your child’s bedtime routine. If you have not yet established nightly rituals, you can start by talking to your child about the things that are most important to do before bedtime. Make a list, and try to stay consistent with it. It may be getting a drink of water, brushing teeth, reading stories, praying, singing a song, or rocking for a few minutes.
Many children will prefer a specific sleepwear item to provide feelings of comfort, safety, and security as they head to bed. Medical studies have shown that children sleeping in wool sleepwear settle more quickly, cry less, sleep longer, and even feed better. Woolino products are an excellent option as they are made with the “Magic of Merino Wool,” and the benefits are countless. Remember, children who sleep longer and deeper will take that energy and channel it towards physical and emotional development.
Lead by Example.
Parents should be the best role models as to what is appropriate screen time behavior. You can do so by keeping your electronics out of your own room. If you get a text message as you are engaged with your child, resist the urge to read it. You can even explain to your child that you will not be checking your phone because you are spending time with them, and that is most important at the moment. Also, respect your own bedtimes and value your own sleep. By doing so, your children will begin to also regard sleep as a priority, and those electronics will slowly become a little less important.