Sleep is the cornerstone to health and wellbeing and its impact on a healthy lifestyle cannot be underestimated. We know that poor sleep routines are associated with sedentary behaviour and research has shown that a lack of sleep is associated with increased overweight and obesity, especially in younger age groups. Insufficient sleep duration is thought to increase appetite, the desirability of unhealthy foods and lower physical activity.
As part of the campaign to help get bedtime back on track, Dr Colman Noctor, Child and Adolescent Psychoanalytical Psychotherapist commented “A fundamental role of childhood is building regulation in all aspects of life with sleep being the cornerstone of this regulation process. The key to this is regularity and consistency with consistent sleep patterns assisting your child to regulate all other aspects of their lives including appetite, energy, emotions and physical activity. Sleep should be seen as a recharging process whereby if not enough sleep is achieved, there will be negative knock-on effects across all other aspects of a child’s life. Sleep also has a significant impact on cognitive function, so concentration, memory and focus are also compromised with insufficient sleep.”
Commenting on ‘Healthy Routines Start With Sleep’, Dr Marian O’Reilly, Chief Specialist in Nutrition, safefood said "Research shows that not getting enough sleep impacts on children’s health in many ways including increased risk of excess body weight. Sleep influences appetite hormones and being up for longer means there are more opportunities to eat, which can impact on their weight. Many parents have told us that they have found sleep, snacking, managing treat foods and other healthy behaviours difficult over recent months. A good sleep routine is the key to unlocking these challenges.”
Sarah O’Brien, HSE National Lead, Healthy Eating and Active Living Programme stated “Every year, getting back into a regular bedtime routine with children is something all parents have to tackle after the summer holidays. With COVID-19, we have all faced huge extra challenges this year. We would encourage parents to know the power of a good sleep routine, and how it can improve their child’s health and wellbeing. We know it’s not easy to tackle and will take time and effort to get it right. We have really good advice and support available at www.makeastart.ie.”
Kate O’ Flaherty, Head of Healthy Ireland added “we know that having a regular bedtime routine for children can be difficult, especially when factoring in the unprecedented times we have been living in more recently. Research has found establishing a bedtime routine is associated with better sleep for parents, a more active and healthier lifestyle and reduced family stress, a win-win for the whole family.”
To help get bedtime back on track, Dr Colman Noctor offers the following sleep advice to parents:
- Consistent bedtimes are at the heart of the routine to provide regularity and predictability that over time will help a child to self-regulate
- Reduce screen time and sugary foods and drinks in the hours leading up to bedtime.
- Encourage physical activity and fruit and vegetables during the day.
- Encourage relaxation skills and wind down activities.
- Value sleep time within the family culture