What if we lived in a world where carrots made your child feel irritable and grumpy – as a parent what would you do? I think most of you would say “kids – please don’t eat the carrot”. And what if I told you that carrots were not only going to make them grumpy but would also lead to a higher risk of stress, memory impairment, difficulties in cognitive function and problem solving, impaired immune function, depression, anxiety and behavioural problems? What if there was even evidence that carrots led to delayed physical growth and contributed to poor mental health?
It goes without saying that as parents we would categorically ban carrots from our household, and furthermore, probably campaign for the complete destruction of all carrots in existence!
Of course, the humble carrot is not bad for us. But a consistent lack of sleep can lead to all these symptoms as outlined above. There is a mountain of scientific evidence that supports this.
Sleep is really important to our physical, psychological, emotional and, by extension, our social health. And it is even more true for children and adolescents, who are all going through critical stages of development. I think most of us know this. But if your experience of parenting is anything like mine, in this technological age, where there are multiple screens in every room of the house, it is one thing to know all of the facts and it is another thing to take some action to help our children get better sleep. While we are at it, we could also scrutinise our own sleeping habits, because this is all very true for us as well, and we do lead by example: monkey see, monkey do, right!
In my work as a psychologist, but also as a parent of five (including three teenagers), I see all too clearly the negative impacts of poor sleep. I’m sure that you do too. Personally, I feel the impacts of poor sleep also – I know this is something I need to work on.
What do we do? Let’s break it down into some simple steps we can all take:
- Turn off screens and get them out of bedrooms – set these expectations for your children and lead by example;
- Set a time where you expect they will be off their phones and devices and going to sleep – work together with them on this, we don’t want this to be a fight;
- Have a good night time routine: read up on sleep hygiene – the factors that lead to poor sleep and good sleep, and make some positive changes to your family sleep habits;
- Encourage everyone in the house to tune into the relationships with the family members around them. Open bedroom doors, connect, check in, and say good night (or bonne nuit, buenas noches, welterusten!).
So, let’s all take some action here. Maybe start with yourself, commit to some changes, and then talk with your children about the importance of sleep – make some commitments together as a family. If you would like some help, or need some more information about this, please don’t hesitate to email firstname.lastname@example.org