Parents often struggle in nurturing healthy sleep habits in preschoolers, given the adventures those little ones are busy with. And it is completely natural! The kids are experiencing new things every day, and in all that excitement, quality sleep takes a backseat. As one of the best preschools in Hillsborough NJ, we will guide you with what good sleeping habits can do for children.
What is sleep, exactly?
Sleep is an altered state of consciousness where we have limited interactions with our surroundings and are still and quiet. In much simpler words, sleep is like a pit stop for our bodies and brains. Our bodies use sleep to recharge and refuel for the next day. In sleep mode, our brain organizes the things we have learned, while our body is busy in repairing.
When we sleep, our body goes through two main phases: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) where dreams commonly occur, and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) a deeper sleep phase.
By the time children reach preschool age, they switch between these two states more or less every 90 minutes! A consistent sleep schedule supports the natural rhythm of children’s REM and NREM sleep phases. This balance is crucial, as it contributes to their overall well-being.
What are the benefits of healthy sleep habits for preschoolers?
Regular, quality sleep plays a pivotal role in consolidating learning and memory. It is during sleep that preschoolers process the information and experiences they have gathered throughout the day, aiding in cognitive development and problem-solving skills. Sufficient rest also helps our little energetic bundles of joy be better equipped to manage their emotions, reducing mood swings and tantrums, and promoting emotional well-being.
Well-rested preschoolers have exhibited enhanced attention spans and self-control, which have a positive impact on their interactions with peers and teachers. For preschoolers, sleep is also instrumental for physical development, which includes bone growth and a strong immune system, as the body releases growth hormones that are responsible for the development of muscle tissue and bone density.
Regular, quality sleep ensures they experience the necessary dreaming and restful periods, fostering optimal physical and cognitive development. So, by nurturing healthy sleep habits, we are helping our preschoolers flourish physically and mentally.
How much sleep do children need?
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that toddlers between the ages of 1-2 years should get 11 to 14 hours, while preschoolers 3-5 years should get 10 to 13 hours every day, school-aged children 6 to 13 years require 9 to 11 hours, and for teenagers, it is 8 to 10 hours daily.
Tips for establishing healthy sleep habits for children
A good night’s sleep is a must for children, regardless of their age. Most children wake up without an alarm if they get enough good-quality sleep. Listed below are a few ways parents can help kids do so.
- Consistent Bedtime Routine
A regular bedtime routine helps tell our bodies that it’s time to wind down. Consistency is the key here, as it keeps your preschooler’s body clock in a regular pattern while making them feel secure and ready for sleep during school days and holidays.
- Relaxing Sleep Environment
Preschoolers are extremely sensitive to their surroundings, which is why ensuring that their sleeping environment is comfortable, quiet, and dimly lit is a must. Calming activities such as reading a story, listening to soft music or nature sounds, or even the presence of their favorite blanket or stuffed toys provide a sense of security for them.
- Limiting Screen Time Before Bed
Screens, no matter how big or small, emit blue light, which interferes with our body’s secretion of melatonin, a hormone that induces drowsiness. We highly encourage parents to avoid any kind of screen time at least 1–2 hours before bedtime. Instead, engage in calming activities like reading, puzzles, building blocks, sensory play, or our favorite, a warm, bubbly bath.
- Regular Waking Time
Just as a consistent bedtime is essential, a regular wake-up time helps regulate the body’s internal clock. Setting a consistent wake-up time helps preschoolers feel refreshed, energized, and attentive for their day.
- Balanced Diet
Nutrition plays a huge role in preschoolers’ amount of sleep, so avoid heavy meals close to bedtime and opt instead for something lighter and more nutritious that won’t make them feel bloated or too full. Bananas, kiwis, and yogurt are wonderful bedtime snacks that are loaded with tryptophan, melatonin, and potassium, helping the body relax and fall asleep easier.
- Physical Activity & Natural Light
Encourage your child to engage in physical activities and to get as much natural light as possible during the day. It is also recommended that preschoolers avoid vigorous activities before bedtime, as it can lead to inadequate amount of sleep. Finding the right balance between activity and rest through a well-structured routine allows for both growth and rest.
- Avoiding Caffeine and sugar-saturated drinks
Preschoolers are not coffee drinkers, but certain foods and drinks contain traces of caffeine. Soda, candy, ice cream, and chocolate milk have more sugar and caffeine than a preschooler can handle, and having them right before bedtime can give them an unwanted boost in energy.
- Lead By Example
Preschoolers are very impressionable. They tend to emulate the behavior of their parents, siblings, and other family members. When we, as adults, prioritize our sleep and practice healthy sleep habits, children will likely follow suit. Just like any social-emotional skill, parents must demonstrate the behaviors they wish their children to perceive as healthy.
At Springdale Academy, the best preschool in Hillsborough NJ, we believe instilling healthy sleep habits in preschoolers lays the foundation for their overall growth and development, empowering them to navigate their days with curiosity, energy, and enthusiasm. By incorporating the tips mentioned earlier, parents can help their preschoolers have a great night’s sleep.
Remember, a good night’s sleep recharges their bodies and spirits, readying them to embark on a journey of discovery.