by Elina Winnel, Emma Sleep Ambassador


Getting the right amount of sleep is crucial to young children’s brain development, and also helps to regulate things such as their behaviour and their ability to fight off illness. A healthy, well-rested child also ensures parents can get enough sleep to recharge and nourish their own minds and bodies.

To get your child (and yourself) sleeping better to support overall health and development, there are a few things you can do.

Go Outside as Early as Possible

Natural light is critical to your child’s sleep pattern, it can help them sleep faster and for longer. It’s recommended that you expose your child to natural light within the first two hours of them waking as this will help balance their internal clock. Indirect light has similar benefits, try opening the blinds early in the morning. But remember, children’s skin is extra sensitive to light, so it’s important to follow sun safety procedures.

Exposure to early morning sunlight will also help to improve parents’ nocturnal melatonin production and boost serotonin levels, which will help them to get enough sleep and feel refreshed.

Emma’s Sleep Barometer study developed by the Emma sleep research team found that being a new parent actually elevates the amount of time a person spends outside, with new parents spending three or more hours per day outside.

By making small changes to your routine such as leaving a blind in your child’s room partially open to allow the sunlight to seep in the morning can make a big difference in helping them wake up and adjust to the day.

Revitalise Your Routine

Work towards regulating the times your child sleeps. Every adult and child has a circadian rhythm, which is similar to a 24-hour clock that works within the body and controls a number of processes such as sleep. This internal clock is managed by the circadian pacemaker (located in the brain) and is strongly affected by the amount of light exposure a person receives.

It’s important to ensure your child goes to sleep around the same time every night, as despite what time they are put to bed, their circadian rhythm will continue to dictate that they wake at a similar time each morning.

When putting your child to bed, you should be conscious of the amount of light they are exposed to, as more light will push their bedtime later. This is especially important as the seasons change, and the amount of natural light one receives throughout the day differs. Ensure that you dim the lights in the evening – especially two hours before your children’s bed time. Only use soft warm lighting, such as lamps or night lights, with orange based rather than blue based bulbs, to optimise melatonin levels.

Make Your Sleep More Efficient

A person should aim to keep their sleep efficiency to 85% if they wish to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. This measurement can be calculated by minusing the minutes it took to sleep and the minutes spent awake during the night from the total amount of minutes spent in bed.

While it is hard to calculate this for your child, you should aim to improve this score to minimise your exhaustion and maximise your own satisfaction.

If you are a parent of a newborn, make your sleep more valuable. You should aim to go to sleep when your baby does, regardless of the time of the day. In order to feel energised the following day, you must receive at least four hours of uninterrupted sleep. Parents should share the load and take turns waking up for the baby to ensure they are both ready to tackle their busy schedules.

Take Time To Exercise

Getting your child moving will stimulate their awakening and help them to fall asleep faster than those who are inactive throughout the day. Physical activity is critical for your child’s mental health as it triggers the body’s release of cortisol (the primary stress hormone) and will improve their ability to remain alert during the day.  It will also mean your child is more likely to be tired at nighttime.

Change Up Your Child’s Bedroom

Small changes to your child’s bedroom can have a substantial impact on their ability to fall asleep. As the temperature decreases during the winter months, the temperature inside their room will fluctuate, but it is important to regulate this to allow them to receive optimal sleep. Maintaining a dark and quiet room that is the right temperature is critical for your child’s sleep schedule.

You can ensure that your child stays warm in the winter months by monitoring your air-conditioning, using layering for their clothes and bedding and taking steps during the day such as shutting windows and blinds at a certain time to keep the warmth in.

Minimise Bedtime Defiance

Taking steps to decrease your child’s resistance to going to bed can make sleep time easier and less stressful for both parents and children.

Consistency is crucial for minimising your child’s defiance and can be done by establishing a routine that involves pleasant and relaxing activities such as bubble baths, bedtime stories, and eating at a regular time to let them digest their food in time for bed. Activities that require a lot of energy or that are over-stimulating like watching television or playing active games should be limited to lessen resistance at bedtime.

In the lead up to bed time, playing classical music in the background can help to calm your children. Tranquil sounds help soothe children’s nervous systems. They also help us adults relax and sleep better too!

Parents should also ensure their children are tired before trying to put them to sleep, and leave the bedroom whilst their child is awake rather than waiting for them to fall asleep as this will improve their ability to sleep on their own.

Manage Your Stress Levels

Children pick up on our stress and anxiety levels. The more relaxed we are with our children, the more relaxed they are likely to be, helping them to nod off more easily. When you are with them, try to let go of thoughts about work or other worries, and really be present.

When you put these concepts into practice, you may find that not only your child is sleeping better, but you are too.


Elina Winnel