Sleep is a lot like surfing: It takes preparation and practice to learn how to catch and ride the wave. But it’s worth the effort, since healthy sleep patterns during childhood and adolescence are linked to improved health outcomes, academic achievement and physical safety, among many other benefits.
As parents, know that every night won’t bring perfect conditions, but helping children improve their sleep quality, attitudes and rituals sets them up favorably to catch the big wave and establish healthy sleep routines.
It’s important to know that sleep habits, attitudes, rituals and routines satisfy deep human instincts to be safe at times when we are most vulnerable, such as letting down vigilance for the night. This drive is present not only across the lifespan, but in all species. Even for the best sleepers, environmental conditions and undercurrents of emotions (particularly fear and sadness) as well as medical illness and injuries can erode sleep quality and, in some cases, lead to chronic insomnia (defined as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep and poor sleep quality). For humans, and children in particular, routine translates to predictability — which translates to comfort and feeling safe.
Here are six key recommendations for developing healthy sleep routines:
Sammy Dhaliwal, Amysue Hansen and Wendy Pinder contributed to this post.