While good sleep is important at every age, how much sleep a person needs will change throughout their life, depending on age or life stage. A newborn baby has very different sleep requirements than a teenager or an adult.
There are two life stages when the topic of sleep is forced into the spotlight and can be a source of stress and conflict, and those stages happen to intersect: the early parenthood and childhood years. Many parents of young children struggle with getting their kids to sleep, which consequently affects their ability to get enough sleep themselves. A cottage industry has been built on giving parents advice on how to manage this period of their lives.
Whether or not you have children, it’s easy to understand that teaching and modeling desirable behaviors go hand in hand. Parents and children both need to approach bedtime with healthy sleep attitudes and routines. The earlier you start nurturing both, the greater your chance of success.
It may sound quite elementary, but sometimes getting back to the basics can be enlightening nonetheless: How you think about something directly affects how you act on it. Think about sleep as a healthy activity that helps you do all the things you want to do to make tomorrow a great day, rather than something that keeps you from doing what you want to do.
Consider how top athletes – and other high-profile figures – use rest and sleep to be able to be at their best in what they do. Making it relevant for kids by identifying individuals they admire could be an effective way to get the message across.
Learn about and teach all the ways our bodies need sleep. The National Sleep Foundation has a website called Sleep for Kids that gives parents information on that as well as ideas, fun activities and materials to teach kids the importance of sleep.
Sleep helps young brains and bodies to develop and grow properly. From bones, skin and muscles to memory, focus and creativity, sleep affects all of these things that are basic enough for parents to identify and talk about in a way that’s age-appropriate for their children.
Just as a positive attitude about sleep can help achieve better sleep, a strong system of rewarding positive bedtime routine and outcome is key to achieving consistent results night after night. While the use of something like a “stars system” that earns special treats or other tangible rewards is a tried and true system that works for many, it is also very important to teach children the intrinsic reward of getting a good night’s sleep. This ties in with teaching children how sleep helps the body and brain grow and function better.