Just in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s almost September. Are you ready? Is your child? The quality and duration of sleep that your child gets is instrumental in ensuring that they start the school year off right.
10. Reduce clutter.
Eliminating distractions in the bedroom is a good step towards creating and maintaining a calm and restful sleep space. Children’s bedrooms are often hotspots for clutter. The problem is that clutter can restrict your ability to focus and process information, which isn’t so great when you are trying to sleep. And if your child’s favourite toys are within eyesight, chances are they will be more focused on their toys, not sleeping.
Being vigilant about what comes into your home is a great way to prevent clutter, but many of us still have work to be done on what is already in our home. Start by putting a limit on the toys in your child’s room and keep the space organized. Find new homes for items that are broken or no longer used. Connect with the solid waste management division in your community to understand what is available for curbside collection and contact local charitable organizations and recycling agencies for more waste diversion options. Encourage your child to participate in the process to help recognize the importance of giving back to others and reducing our impact on the environment.
9. Clean. And then clean some more.
Now is a great time to thoroughly clean your child’s bedroom (especially if you didn’t get around to it earlier in the year). Dust and allergens can accumulate quickly and you might be surprised to see what is lurking in the recesses of your home. Dust mites can be particularly problematic as they thrive on dead skin cells. The excrement from dust mites can trigger allergic reactions and worsen asthma. Regular vacuuming, dusting and washing bedding in hot water can help to control dust mites and other allergens; however, you need to pay attention to other surfaces. Don’t forget to address lampshades, ceiling and desk fans, decorative pillows, trim and window screens.
8. Rub-a-dub-dub. Check out what’s in your tub.
Conduct a personal care product audit. If you haven’t been reading labels on the bubble bath, moisturizers and toothpaste that your children use, you may want to start. Personal care products are notorious for greenwashing, but you can arm yourself with information to help with your purchasing decisions. Click here to download your copy of a wallet sized shopping guide or visit the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database to look up information about your personal care products and the ingredients they contain.
7. Re-evaluate your child’s mattress and pillow.
Have you ever given much thought to what your child sleeps on? Children spend a significant amount of their lives asleep, so the surface they sleep on is an important consideration. Traditional mattresses are produced using mostly synthetic materials that can release harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde and flame retardant chemicals. Choosing alternative materials like wool or natural latex not only reduce contact with chemicals but which are dust mite resistant, letting your child breathe easy while they sleep. Check out Obasan organic mattresses which are made in Canada as a great place to choose a healthy mattress.
6. Bedding, sleepwear and soft toys.
Your child’s exposure to chemicals doesn’t stop at the mattress. Bedding, pajamas, and plush toys are also common sources. Let’s not forget the chemical input required to produce cotton and synthetic materials in the first place. Aim to choose 100 percent organic bedding and pajamas to further reduce your child’s exposure and help prevent additional contamination of soil and water supplies. And look for plush toy alternatives made of natural fibres such as wool and hemp and organic cotton; feel better knowing your child is not cuddling up to toxic chemicals at night. Use this checklist to assess your child’s sleep space.
5. Focus on food.
Long work days, long commutes and lots of activities can create mealtime chaos. Pushing mealtime later, or constantly relying on heavily processed foods for last minute meals can interfere with bedtime as a result. A late supper can lead to a child becoming overtired. An overly tired child may have a difficult time making the transition from being awake to falling asleep. Inadequate digestion before bed can also play a role. Sleep provides the body with the opportunity to rest and regenerate, but if your body is busy digesting food, it’s forced to direct energy away from that goal. Bad dreams and restless sleep are also common when sleeping on an overly full stomach.
A little planning now can help to avoid mealtime chaos and the potential impacts to your child’s sleep once school starts. It will also help to reduce waste from pre-packaged or fast food. Consider making a list of your house favourites to make meal planning and shopping easier. Pick a few dishes that are freezer friendly and prepare them now to get you ahead of the game. Consider relying on Farmers’ Markets to source local and organic ingredients while they are still available, sign up for an organic food box delivery or join a CSA for year-round local picks.
4. Curb the electronics.
Too much screen time in the window before bedtime can have a negative impact on your sleep. Non-screen related activities are encouraged for children as much as two hours before bed. Instead of watching TV or playing computer/video games, consider introducing a puzzle or board game that the family can enjoy together. Better yet, get outside for a family walk, a bike ride or scavenger hunt.
3. Freshen up. Cool it down.
If there is insufficient air circulation in your child’s bedroom the air can get stale and humid. Body heat can contribute to heating up room temperature, and normal breathing can increase air humidity. The exact sleeping temperature will vary from person to person, but sleeping in a slightly cooler environment is preferable. Consider adding a fan or cracking a window to keep things fresh and cool to help encourage a more restful sleep. Opening windows on a regular basis is also a good way to reduce the buildup of indoor air pollution.
2. Book it.
No matter what age your child is, reading can be incorporated in a nightly bedtime routine. Not only is it an opportunity to foster literacy, but it can also help to create a greater awareness and understanding of the natural world and their role in it. Check out this list or ask your local library to suggest some new and notable titles to add (or borrow!) to your collection.
1. Avoid the dreaded summer hangover.
Waiting until the night before school, daycare or organized activities to try to make changes to your child’s routine and sleep schedule isn’t likely going to work. Start making changes now by moving bedtime back to an appropriate time. If your child has been going to bed somewhere around 8:30-9:00pm, start by bringing bedtime earlier by 15 minutes every 2-3 nights.
Make sure to also evaluate how daily schedules (school start times, daycare drop off times, etc.) might impact the amount of sleep your sleep your child needs. Keep in mind that children ages 1-3 years need about 12-14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. Children ages 3-5 years need 11-13 hours of sleep (nap included) and 5-12 year olds need 10-11 hours.
What back to school sleep tip are you working on at your home?