Sleep expert reveals quirkiest ways to combat children's exhaustion

What to do during the DAY to get your child to sleep at night: Doctor reveals the quirky tricks any parent can use – from ‘watering’ feet to spending time in front of a fish tank

  • Dr Nerina Ramlakhan has compiled some of the quirkiest ways of aiding sleep
  • Suggests introverted children more likely to feel tired and struggle to adjust
  • Tips include getting a ‘gadget basket’ and hanging pictures of waterfalls on walls

A sleep expert has revealed some of the simple tricks parents can use to get their children to sleep better at night, from watering their feet in the garden to buying a fish tank.

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, a physiologist, sleep therapist and resident expert with UK brand Silentnight, explained that some children will be struggling to adjust to going back to school after months at home. 

She said that while sleep deprivation affects children of all ages and personalities, it is typically more introverted children who will be feeling the most exhausted and struggling to readjust to the ‘new normal’. 

She said: ‘For children who enjoy the quiet and peacefulness of home, it will have proven more difficult getting back out there again – so these children are far more likely to be exhausted.  

Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, a physiologist, sleep therapist and resident expert with UK brand Silentnight, explained that some children will be struggling to adjust to going back to school after months at home. Stock image 

‘The isolation of lockdown perhaps hasn’t been as difficult for them when compared to children that are naturally more outgoing and have missed the buzz of school and socialising.

‘Introverted children are more likely to be sensitive sleepers too, and are therefore more at risk of feeling burnt out and exhausted as a result of a shift in routine.’

Although in the worst case scenarios, exhaustion can lead to more serious problems in children, Dr Nerina believes it can be dealt with in a fun way. 

Water their feet in the garden

The sleep expert recommends getting little ones out in the garden to connect with nature and ‘earthing’ themselves.

Invest in a ‘gadget basket’

One element which Dr Nerina says is ‘non-negotiable’ is having technology and gadgets near a child’s sleep environment.

She said: ‘Having a constant stream of light enter our eyes before we go to sleep means we’re actually telling our brains to ‘wake up’, which is not what you want to be doing when trying to tackle exhaustion at night.’

Instead, she advises parents invest in a special box to keep in a separate room of the home, which children can drop their mobile phones and gadgets into an hour before going to bed.

‘Why not give it a name like the ‘gadget basket’ too, just to make things more fun,’ she added. 

 

Those fortunate enough to have a back garden can let their children outside and Dr Nerina advises they walk around on the grass barefoot. 

If the ground is dry, parents can get the watering can and water their children’s feet as though they are plants. 

She said: ‘You might get a few odd looks from the neighbours, but like a nighttime bath, it’s a great way of washing away the day and allaying exhaustion.’

Get a fish tank

According to Dr Nerina, watching fish swim around a tank is highly therapeutic and could be a great addition to a family hoping to get some much needed rest. 

She said: ‘Children often find it comforting to sit mesmerised by something detached from their own life for a while, and in doing so can forget any worries which are exacerbating their exhaustion.

Make honey and nut butter on toast

The importance of breakfast cannot be understated – and if your child has been skipping it during lockdown, then now is the time to reintroduce it in line with the school routine. 

The sleep expert suggests toast with nut butter and a drizzle of honey is a healthier alternative to an energy bar and it can give your child a real boost if you find they’re flagging.

If nut butter or honey isn’t to their taste however, Dr Nerina said parents should try making a smoothie with a scoop of protein powder – which can also help if they don’t fancy something heavy like toast.

Hang pictures of trees and waterfalls on the wall

Children sleep better and feel more awake in the morning when they’re in an environment they feel comfortable and peaceful in – and Dr Nerian says being surrounded by nature is a brilliant way of ensuring that this happens.

She said: ‘While it’s great to have physical plants in the bedroom, even if they’re fake, if this isn’t possible – then having pictures on the wall can have the exact same effect.’

In a bid to help combat exhaustation, parents can try decorating their children’s bedrooms with pictures of trees, waterfalls or the beach. 

Such images are said to will trigger calm senses and allow children to have a restorative sleep – ensuring they are not still exhausted when they wake in the morning.

Dr Ramlakhan, pictured, shared her advice on the steps every parent can take to help their child sleep better at night, including creating a ritual and banning blue light from bedrooms

Make hot chocolate and crackers a ritual

Milky drinks like hot chocolate are great for helping children wind down and feel ready for bed at the right times – so much so, that Dr Nerina advises parents to make having them an actual nighttime ritual. 

She said: ‘Do exercise caution with these drinks though – as children shouldn’t really be having them less than an hour before turning the lights out.’

If they are still feeling peckish, children can also much of a few crackers on the side too.

Encourage schools and teachers to introduce ‘pet days’

Similar to watching fish, stroking pets also has a calming influence on children. 

Dr Nerina said: ‘It helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes rest, repair, recovery and sleep.’

In line with a lot of calls recently for companies to allow staff to bring pets into the office, the sleep expert suggests allowing ‘pet days’ at schools could also help boost sleep.  

‘If teachers introduced a ‘bring your pet day’ every now and then, and encouraged children to take a break out of their day to sit and play with them, this would help to ease stress and exhaustion,’ Dr Nerina says.

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