The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep

March 3, 2021

We all know that great feeling of waking up refreshed after a great night’s sleep.
Sadly, this is not a reality for many children (or adults), especially children who are experiencing stress and concerns or come from the past that has included trauma, neglect, and abuse.

We all know that great feeling of waking up refreshed after a great night’s sleep.

Sadly, this is not a reality for many children (or adults), especially children who are experiencing stress and concerns or come from the past that has included trauma, neglect, and abuse.

March is National Bed Month, so it feels appropriate to explore this subject further to see what resources and support are available.  The NHS website advises that:

Good sleep is important for your child’s physical and mental wellbeing.
A relaxing bedtime routine is an important way to help your child get a good night’s sleep.”

a) Firstly, you need to identify how much sleep children should be getting, as this changes over time e.g.

Babies (aged 4 to 12 months) – 12 to 16 hours including naps

Toddlers (aged 1 to 2 years) – 11 to 14 hours including naps

Young Children (3 to 5 years) – 10 to 16 hours including naps

Older Children (6 to 12 years – 9 to 12 hours

Teenagers (13 to 18 years) – 8 to 10 hours

b) The next step is to ensure that a child’s bedroom is comfortable and relaxing, ideally dark (or dimmed lighting), quiet and tidy. The room should be well ventilated and kept at a temperature of around 16 to 20 degrees Celsius. Also, be aware of light and noise pollution from outside – consider thick curtains to block out any daylight or street lighting, earplugs for older children etc.

c) Avoid having screens (tablets, smartphones, TVs etc) in their bedroom. Older children and teens may stay up late or wake in the night to use social media. This disrupts their sleep patterns so that they do not get a quality night’s sleep (as well as potentially putting them at risk of other online dangers when not supervised).

d) Establish a good bedtime routine. For younger children, a set bedtime routine could consist of:

– A warm (not hot) bath to help a child to relax
– Dimmed lights to encourage a child’s body to release the sleep hormone,  Melatonin
– Encourage children to read quietly or listen to some relaxing music, or read a   story together
For secondary school aged children including teenagers, a bedtime routine could  include the above plus:
– Supporting them to take 60 mins of regular exercise (ideally outdoors in the daylight) to help their general health as well as aiding sleep. This should include some aerobic activities such as fast walking or running.
– Drinking less caffeine e.g. cola, tea, coffee overall but none at all in the evenings as caffeine can make it more difficult to fall asleep
– Eating a meal a few hours before bedtime not eating close to bedtime as can cause discomfort in the night.
– Ensuring that screens, phones etc are set up to be charged overnight somewhere other than their bedroom
– Encouraging at least 1 hour of screen-free time before going to sleep

e) Encourage any child to talk through anything that they are worried about, as this may help them to put their problems into perspective and sleep better. You can also encourage them to write down any worries or a to-do-it before they go to bed, which may mean that they are less likely to lay awake worrying in the night.

If the child or young person is still struggling to get to sleep, or stay at asleep throughout the night, then let your Supervising Social Worker (SSW) or the Child’s Social Worker know so that more support can be accessed. Below are some books for children to assist with some sleep issues. A discussion with the GP may be required to rule out any medical cause.

Resources – advice to improve sleep e.g. choosing the best type of mattress, nodcasts, 30 day sleep plan, sleep calculator. – sleep advice including implementing good bedtime routines, managing sleep problems, relaxation tips etc

– Books

Arlo The Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep by Catherine Rayner (suggested age range 3-7 years)

Arlo The Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep is a beautifully illustrated story with a gentle mindfulness message from Kate Greenaway Medal winner Catherine Rayner – ideal for bedtime, and especially helpful for little ones who have trouble going to sleep.

Arlo the lion is exhausted. He just can’t drop off, no matter what he tries. It’s either too hot, or too cold; too loud or too quiet. But then he meets Owl. She can sleep through the day, which isn’t easy when most other animals are awake! Will Arlo ever get any rest? Perhaps his new friend has some special tricks she can teach him …

Neon the Ninja Activity Book for Children who Struggle with Sleep and Nightmares: A Therapeutic Story with Creative Activities for Children Aged 5-10 by Dr Karen Triesman (suggested age range 5-10 years)

Neon the Ninja has a very special job. He looks after anyone who finds the night time scary. Lots of us have nightmares, but Neon loves nothing more than using his special ninja powers to keep the nightmares and worries far away, and to keep the magical dreams and positive thoughts close by. It combines a fun illustrated story to show children how Neon the Ninja can reduce their nightmares and night worries with fun activities and therapeutic worksheets to make night times feel safer and more relaxed. This workbook contains a treasure trove of explanations, advice, and practical strategies for parents, carers and professionals. Based on creative, narrative, sensory, and CBT techniques, it is full of tried and tested exercises, tips and techniques to aid and alleviate nightmares and sleeping difficulties. This is a must-have for those working and living with children aged 5-10 who experience nightmares or other sleep-related problems.

The Awesome Power of Sleep: How Sleep Super-Charges Your Teenage Brian by Nicola Morgan
(suggested for 11+ years)

The essential guide to sleep from award-winning teenage well-being expert Nicola Morgan, author of bestselling Blame My Brain, The Teenage Guide to Stress and The Teenage Guide to Friends.
Late nights, addictive technology and minds racing with exam stress and friendship worries: it’s no wonder the teenage stereotype is tired eyes and sleeping through the weekend. Just like adults, teenagers are sleeping less now than ever before, yet sleep is crucial to our health and well-being. Internationally renowned expert on the teenage brain, Nicola Morgan, tackles this essential subject – asking why teenagers so desperately need a good night’s sleep, exploring what a lack of sleep does to their developing brains, and explaining how to have the best sleep possible.  Authoritative, accessible, and informed by the latest scientific evidence, Nicola Morgan writes a fascinating and helpful guide for both teenagers and adults alike.

Book reviews by (2021)