Exercise can be very helpful in achieving a restful night’s sleep for your child. Exercise is also so beneficial for your child’s general health and wellbeing. Is your child getting enough exercise?
The Benefits of Sleep
Good sleep is vital for learning, growth and development in children. During sleep our bodies restore and renew – regenerating for the next day ahead. Sleep has been known to improve memory and behaviour in children. Sleep is just as important as diet and exercise – in fact the three all work together to form the pillars of good health.
How Exercise Helps Sleep?
Exercise can really help to improve the quality of your child’s sleep. By getting more physical activity your child should be able to fall into a deep sleep and possibly sleep for longer. Exercise can help children to fall asleep more quickly. Children who fall asleep faster, tend to have better quality sleep than those who take longer to fall asleep.
Exercise can help to regulate your child’s circadian rhythm or “body clock” which works on a 24 hour cycle. Good exercise (plus the added bonus of sunlight) can realign your child’s body clock so that they find it easier to go to bed at the appropriate time. I don’t know about you, but once my body clock is out of whack it does take time to realign again. Exercise is a sure fire way to get you back on track.
It’s important to note that the effects of exercise on your child’s sleep may not be noticeable immediately. It could take time after the exercise routine is introduced, to notice a change or improvement in your child’s sleep pattern. The best way to see the benefits of the exercise routine is to have a consistent pattern. Overtime, the body begins to recognise the pattern created by your daily routine and this in turn will help your sleep routine.
Too much exercise can have the opposite effect on your child and interfere with sleep. Your child may also become overtired and find it difficult to wind down. Has this happened to you with your baby? Always be on the lookout for tired signs so you can settle a ‘tired’ baby or child rather than an ‘over tired’ and delirious one!
Other Benefits of Exercise
Not only does exercise help sleep, it can also offer other significant health benefits. Exercise can improve physical health including increased immunity, stronger muscles and bones, leaner body weight and a reduced chance of other health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Exercise can contribute to better mental health by sending anti-depressant like effects to the brain. In other words feel good endorphins transmitted to the brain will put your child in a better mood. Exercise is particularly helpful to regulate your child’s energy before a long trip or a mundane activity. Perhaps try to give your child time to run around before they have to get in the car for a long trip or to let off some steam at the park before you take them to the supermarket to tackle the weekly shopping. The invigoration from exercise should put your child in a better mood to be able to cope with these activities.
How much Exercise is Enough for my Child?
Most children need around 1 hour of physical activity a day. This can be in small bursts (such as playing chasey in the park) or a larger period such as a formal dance lesson. With my kids I found that 30 minutes of swimming once a week provided intense physical activity within a short time frame and was easy to fit in around other activities. On some days, swimming exhausted Jacob so much that we never got home without him falling asleep. Check out this photo of him asleep with his swimming goggles on! It didn’t bother me too much…a good day sleep can often translate into a good night’s sleep!
Ideas for Exercise
Here are some great ways to include physical activity into your daily routine:
Tummy time is a key developmental activity for babies – be sure to do this every day. Putting your baby on their tummy can help to develop strong neck and back muscles. It also prevents your baby’s head becoming flat otherwise known as positional plagiocephaly. Tummy time can often be a challenge at first, but by persevering every day, your baby will be challenged and will flourish in their development.
Structured Physical Activity
You can add some structure to your routine by booking your child in for an exercise class. This could be at a toddler gym or swimming lessons are an intensive activities for your child both mentally and physically. Most lessons are around 30 minutes long which is probably as much as your little one can manage. Swimming not only gives your child an introduction to water and wears them out but it will teach them a valuable skill for life. An indoor pool can mean swimming can become a year round activity.
On a rainy day try your local toddler gym or indoor play centre. Most areas have something suitable for young ones. Ask some friends to meet you there and make it a fun day out.
When the weather is good try to head outside to your garden, your local park, walk the dog or simply take a stroll to your local shop. Leave the car and pram behind. Daylight will help with your child’s circadian rhythms too which in turn will help their sleep. Playing chasey, or simply climbing or walking are all great forms of exercise for your little one.
For young children, exercise should include unplanned exercise such as free play outside. Unstructured play gives children the opportunity to use other skills such as imagination, role playing and making their own choices about what to do.
World Health Organisation Guidelines
The World Health Organisation recently announced new guidelines on movement, sleep and sedentary time for children. The World Health Organisation recommends the following amount of sleep/activity for your baby or young child to maximise their health:
14-17 hours for 0-3 months of age with at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day
12-16 hours for 4-11 months of age with at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day
11-14 hours for a 1-2 year old with at least 180 minutes of physical activity per day
With all the physical activity, your child should fall asleep easily. But many parents know that this is not always the case. Establishing a great bedtime routine will help your child sleep better most days, even if they have not achieve the recommended levels of physical activity that day. Sometime circumstances prevent good physical activity such as feeling unwell, plane travel or if the weather is bad and your child has been cooped up inside. I find the bedtime routine can be very effective and an important skill for your child to master for the longer term.
I always recommend to my customers to enjoy a bedtime routine with their child. This can include a warm relaxing bath, followed by quiet time, the use of a baby sleeping bag or our Joey Pouch Swaddle Wrap to cue your child that he or she will go to bed soon, then finish with a nice cuddly, relaxing bedtime story time. As your child grows they can read to themselves at bedtime. Definitely no screen time is allowed during the bedtime routine. Winding down for bed will help set your child up for healthy sleep patterns in the future when as teenagers they have had a long day at school or as adults, a busy day at work. Good sleep habits sets your child up for life.
Good Sleep for All
A good night’s sleep is a blessing for both adults and children alike but it should not be a rarity. Aim for a good night’s sleep every night by encouraging your child to exercise every day. Exercise, diet and sleep are the 3 best ways to boost your family’s health and wellbeing and they are all intertwined. Make sure you give them all equal importance in your child’s life!
About the Author
Nicole Cassey, Mum to Jacob and Emily, founder and general dog’s body at Bubbaroo. Nicole was inspired to create Bubbaroo and Australia’s first swaddle after the personal experience she had with her first child, Jacob.
Nicole explains “It is such a steep learning curve becoming a parent. Getting to know the baby you created and finding your groove as a parent. You sometimes feel like you need to become a detective to try to interpret your baby’s cues, personality, cries and behaviour. This is my passion to help parents on their journey, especially new parents as they transition to parenthood.”
Nicole has a passion for sharing knowledge and community, regularly organising and presenting at various expectant parent and sleep workshops. Nicole keeps up to date with the latest evidence-based safe sleep and health research. Bubbaroo collaborates with experts in their field that share similar values and philosophies and have a passion for helping and supporting parents and expectant parents.
Nicole’s attention to detail with the creation of her premium quality baby, toddler and child sleepwear is exceptional. Nicole has been committed to ensure that Bubbaroo is not just a mass market brand, Nicole’s focus is on helping your baby sleep safely in products that stand the test of time.