How to help your kids sleep better
Sleep. It’s as important to humans as breathing.
And yet, it’s been suggested in recent studies that more than half of young people have trouble sleeping.
But we don’t want YOU as caregivers to lose any sleep over your child losing any of theirs…
As luck would have it, we’ve just put 3.5 years of research into sleeping and dreams for our new LEGO® DREAMZzz™ franchise, which takes those concepts as its central theme. You can learn about the show in our ‘making of’ article.
Now, however, we’re going to dig into the science of sleep, explain why it can be such an important creative tool and offer top tips to help your kids sleep better.
To help, we’ll be sharing our own LEGO DREAMZzz research alongside the advice of Dr. Shelby Harris, Associate Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. You know she’s smart when she works at a place named after Einstein…
What is a good sleep for kids?
The question of how much sleep kids need changes depending on their age.
These are the guidelines regarding sleep for children, as set out by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine:
- Babies (4-12 months) – 12-16 hours, including naps (lucky…)
- Toddlers (1-2 years) – 11-14 hours, including naps
- Pre-schoolers (3-5 years) – 10-13 hours, including naps
- 6-12 years – 9-12 hours
- Teenagers (13-18 years) – 8-10 hours
One noticeable shift as kids grow older is that they take fewer naps. By 5 years, they’ve usually faded away. (Naps often come back for teenagers, but for different reasons…)
Fewer naps give us caregivers the chance to utilize routine more when it comes to sleep and kids.
“Our brains love patterns and routines,” Dr. Shelby Harris told us. “When we sleep and wake up is a really important routine to establish and stick to.”
Keeping to the same schedule acts almost like a sleep training program for kids. If you’re struggling with how to make kids sleep quickly, a lack of routine is among the most common causes of this disruption.
Sleep disorders in children can often be attributed to night terrors, which are said to affect around one-third of children. But why do kids have nightmares?
“What we often see is that the stressful or complicated things happening in our kids’ lives can impact their sleep and their dreams,” explains Dr. Harris, “which in turn impacts their imagination and ability to unleash their creative potential.”
As we’ll come onto shortly in our top tips for sleep and kids, providing proper time to wind down before bed helps kids avoid processing difficult or complex emotions just as they fall asleep (or “enter the Dream World” to put it in LEGO DREAMZzz terminology).
And while kids’ nightmares are a common sleep disruptor, the solution to a better night’s sleep isn’t to avoid dreaming. Quite the opposite…
“Dreams are a wonderful way for our brains to process emotions, be creative and even come up with solutions to things we’ve been thinking about during the day,” according to Dr. Harris. “Dreams inspire kids to see different possibilities in the world and believe in their own creative abilities.”
As for the kids themselves, two-thirds of the 23,000 kids we recently interviewed said that they believed dreaming is an important way for them to be creative.
In that same global research project commissioned by the LEGO Group, another two-thirds of kids said they felt dreams were also an important way to help process and deal with negative emotions in their day-to-day life, caused by stresses at home, school, social media and more.
This is precisely why we chose to celebrate the power of dreams with our latest franchise. They’re certainly not something to be avoided.
And, as you’ll see now, they can play a pretty big role in your child getting a great night’s sleep…
Top tips for your kids to sleep better
1) A good bedtime routine. We’ve seen already the importance of patterns regarding our sleep habits. It’s especially crucial for kids.
- Dr. Harris says: “Make sure you’re encouraging your child to go to bed and wake up at the same time as often as possible.”
2) Wind down properly. Several studies have revealed a clear link between electronic device usage before bedtime and poorer sleep quality. Think of removing electronics before bed almost as mindfulness for kids. We would suggest playing with LEGO DREAMZzz sets as an alternative… but why not let the scientists do it for us instead?!
- Dr. Harris says: “Make sure your young person has 30-60 minutes without electronics before they get under the covers. Use this time for quiet, imaginative play. Reading, coloring or even creative play with LEGO bricks can all encourage imagination and rest before bed”.
3) Calm things down. Smartphones aren’t the only things that distract kids before bed. Consider factors that might cause overstimulation, including lights, temperature and noise.
- Dr. Harris says: “Set the stage for a good night’s sleep by making sure your child’s bedroom is quiet, calm, cool and comfortable. A nightlight is great if they don’t want their room totally dark, but make sure to otherwise keep all electronics out of their bedroom.”
4) Show interest in your child’s dreams. This will help kids reflect on their dreams and look forward to going to sleep to explore their own dream worlds. You can take inspiration from our innovative LEGO DREAMZzz sets by encouraging kids to build their dreams. LEGO building can help kids identify colors, locations and characters from their nighttime adventures.
- Dr. Harris says: “Ask open-ended questions about their dreams, encouraging them to paint a vivid picture for you with their words. Don’t analyze it, just explore their dream world and re-affirm their creative and imaginative power”.
Helping your kids through nightmares
It was impossible for us to ignore nightmares when devising the LEGO DREAMZzz franchise. We use nightmares as the primary antagonists, with the show’s heroes facing them head-on and finding exciting ways to defeat them.
It’s our hope that this attitude shown by Mateo, Izzie and the gang will help young viewers realize that nightmares don’t have to defeat you. By confronting them with the right attitude, you can conquer them.
And in just the same way as our imaginative LEGO DREAMZzz sets can encourage positive dreaming in kids, they can conversely help kids have an open discussion about their nightmares. Recognizing elements of their nightmares through their toys or by re-building them with bricks can be a way of making them seem less scary.
However, if your child routinely has upsetting dreams that negatively impact their sleep – or if they ever feel afraid to sleep – it’s important to speak to your family doctor who can recommend treatments that might help.
There you have it!