The Secret Superpower To Raising Little Superheroes.  One Word… Sleep.

The Secret Superpower To Raising Little Superheroes. One Word… Sleep.

Sleep is indeed the secret weapon for kids' physical and mental development. But sometimes, parents get so confused as to know what strategies to take to help them tap into their innate ability to get good quality sleep.

One of the reasons is because kids sleep is such a big and triggering topic for parents, especially when they are little. When they’re babies their sleep is erratic, and when they aren’t sleeping, neither are the parents. Lack of sleep and disrupted sleep in the early days has become one of the biggest bug bears of modern parenting, spawning a whole industry of ‘sleep consultants’ and experts to help parents get their kids ‘sleeping through the night’ and by default to get the parents sleeping through the night too. Health coach and father of three, Gareth O'Donnell, otherwise known as Daddy ZZZ, says that many parents often get it wrong because they misunderstand genetics, age, the circadian rhythm, and other lifestyle factors like nutrition and exercise.

What parents need to know

“One of the biggest things I wish parents knew was that as their little ones grow into not-so-little-ones, their sleep requirements change. Super young babies are in theta state most of the day (dream state/trance). This allows the brain to absorb maximum information and to develop rapidly. Sleep consolidates all this information in short bursts. Pre-pubescent children (primary school age), settle into a regular growth patterns, whereas teens accelerate physical growth when the androgenic hormones hit and this requires more sleep due the toll the growth takes on their physiology,” says Gareth. So parents, the next time you are questioning whether your teenager is sleeping in because they might be "lazy", remember, there is a legitimate reason why want to sleep all day!

According to Gareth, the best way to help support them through these changes is by knowing their specific needs, keeping a consistent sleep schedule, and getting on board with the S.L.E.E.P.S. method (Scheduling, Light and Dark, Environment, Eat and Drink, Physiology, and Stress).

Gareth’s sleep method is simple..

Scheduling- Pick a sleep schedule that works and stick to it. Same time to bed every night, same pre-bed routine.

Light & Dark- One of the biggest influences on our sleep is our exposure to sunlight during the day and likewise our exposure to dark as the sun goes down. It informs our Circadian rhythm which is a hormonal cascade throughout the day determined by this exposure to natural sunlight and darkness.

Environment- This is very simply our sleep hygiene or rather the health of the environment we sleep in. A good supportive mattress, breathable linen, good ambient temperature and soft light are important. Basically a sanctuary that encourages the circadian rhythm to do its thing. 

Eat & Drink- A balanced diet primarily focused on nutrient dense foods with only moderately processed foods (interferes with deep sleep) is key. It’s also best to avoid eating 2-3 hours before bed as well as no sugary foods before bedtime. Avoid soft drinks or energy drinks throughout the day as many have stimulants.

Physiology- How your kid moves through the day is important. Most children need to expend a lot of physical energy throughout the day for various reasons; it helps regulate them by giving proprioception input  (the awareness of position and movement of the body) and encourages concentration whilst at school. But it’s also very important for sleep. Growing kids need to ensure they are receiving high quality sleep so again, a good supportive mattress is critical to this (see Comfi link).

Stress- After a busy and full day, just like adults, kids need downtime. Whilst screens can help in this regard, what’s more beneficial are things like a warm bath, audio book or reading and even some deep breathing or kids yoga. If they are old enough, encourage them to get into a practice of journaling and even better get them to talk to you about anything they’re feeling worried or anxious about. Make these a daily practice for them.

Some common sleep myths about kids and sleep

One of the biggest myths Gareth wishes parents knew about, is that what type of sleeper a kid. Whilst it is often due to genetics, sleeping habits to support this are mostly learned, not inherited. It’s in parents best interest to know their child’s chronotype to best support their sleep habits. ‘I have three kids, Cayden (3), Bohdi (6), and Ava (11). Even though they share the same genes, their individual make-up is different. One wakes up at 5-6am, the other two like to sleep until 8am. Whilst genetics play a role, even children in the same family can have very different circadian machinery,’ he says. 

So, your best bet is to find out what your kid’s chronotype is and adjust their sleep habits accordingly. So aside from knowing that some kids do better with a later bedtime and later wake time, or vice versa, things like: kicking junk food, tech, and other negative behaviours or habits as well as adding some morning or late afternoon exercise, can go a long way.

Sleep Hardware and Hygiene is Important

If you were like Susie and Vicki, before they entered the industry, they didn't give much thought to what types of mattresses their kids were sleeping on. But now that they have learnt as much as they have, and understand the absolute critical importance of good sleep, the investment in a good bed for growing children and teens is a no-brainer. 

  1. Bedrooms should be a sanctuary for relaxation, a place that everyone wants to be in at the end of their day. No devices, no food or drinks in the bed, soft lighting and so on.

  2. Invest in a beautiful, soft mattress that your children/teenagers cannot wait to climb into at bedtime (or get out of if you have teens). Click here for our most popular bed for kids.

  3. Temperature management is key! Ensure that bedding is made up of soft, breathable fabrics and adjust duvet weights according to the seasons. Our Comfi mattresses are 100% built with temperature management in mind as the functionality of the mattress ensures maximum air flow.

  4. Finally, pillows make up 30% of your full sleep solution and should support you orthopedically, preferably supporting your head, neck and shoulder position allowing for optimal breathing. Our Comfi low profile latex pillow has been designed with children and tummy sleepers in mind or check out our full range here.

Raising the next gen of superheroes isn’t easy, but if there’s anything to take from this, it’s that often the most misunderstood superpower for little people is in fact their ability to get good zz’s. They all have it but it’s up to us to support it. May the force be with you! You got this.