Dealing with lockdown and the anxieties over the coronavirus can be challenging and it would not be unusual if your child’s sleep has been affected. Sleep is vital for physical and mental health. It helps to improve memory, increase concentration and boosts immunity so it’s really important that you try to create the right conditions to have the best sleep possible. Here are some suggestions from Mr Kemp, Head of Upper School at Stewart's Melville College and Dr Murray, Head of Upper School at The Mary Erskine School, to help your children to enjoy a better sleep:
Establish a new routine
Developing a new routine helps to give some structure, stability and a feeling of control. Routines are also a good way of separating work and relaxation time. Think about how you can create positive new routines and encourage your child to set themselves goals during this unusual time.
Create a restful sleeping environment
The bedroom should be a peaceful place for rest and sleep so if your child can find a different place to work then this is a good idea. Looking at bright screens before bedtime can have a negative effect on sleep so try to make sure they turn off all devices an hour before bed to help them relax.
Keep to normal sleep routines
It may be tempting to have a lie-in at the moment but late nights and lie-ins can disrupt the body clock so your child will sleep better if they try to keep to their normal sleep routines and avoid naps during the day.
Caffeine is a stimulant and too much of it can cause insomnia and increase anxiety so it’s a good idea to switch to non-caffeinated drinks six hours before bedtime.
Exercise every day
Research shows that physical activity can help people sleep more soundly as well as boosting their mood and reducing depression. Teenagers should be aiming for 60 minutes of exercise every day, including aerobic activities such as fast walking and running. Spending time in the daylight is also good for sleep so encourage children to get into the fresh air every day and have a look at the great resources from the PE department on Twitter and Firefly for workouts to try.
Don’t stay glued to the news
Try to limit the amount of time spent listening, watching or reading news about the coronavirus, including on social media. Set a specific time to read updates or limit checking news to a couple of times a day. It is particularly important that we avoid the news before bed so that we don’t increase stress levels just before our head hits the pillow.
Talk to others about worries
There is a close relationship between sleep and mental health. The switch to remote learning and enforced lockdown will be challenging for many and it is normal to feel anxious or depressed. Encourage your child to reach out for support if they need it. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness. Our pastoral care staff are still available to help and give advice.
Doing a relaxation exercise before bed helps to relax the mind and prepare the body for sleep. Psychologist, Stan Godek runs mindfulness workshops for ESMS. He recommends a breathing meditation before sleep. Mindful breathing simply means concentrating and becoming more aware of the breathing process. Focus on the in-breath for a count of four and then out for a count of three. Listen to the sounds of the in-breath and out-breath. Then slow down and deepen the in-breath and then slow down and deepen the out-breath. Listen to each separate breath. The exercise should just take a couple of minutes to begin with but can be lengthened up to five minutes through practice.
We hope these tips help to promote a good night's rest for everyone in your household.