"Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together." - Thomas Dekker

Studies have shown that a lack of sleep can affect a child's memory and learning1, and can have a negative effect on behaviour, emotions, attention, social relationships and health2.

Current guidelines3 for how much sleep babies and children should be getting each day, based on average sleep patterns, recommend:

 

Newborns - 14-17 hrs

Infants (4-11 mths) - 12-15 hrs

Toddlers (1-2 yrs) - 11-14 hrs

Preschoolers (3-5 yrs) - 10-13 hrs

School Age (6-13 yrs) - 9-11 hrs

Teenagers (14-17 yrs) - 8-10 hrs

Helpful Hints For Good Sleep Habits

A positive routine before bedtime can help soothe and calm your child to get ready for sleep, and smoothes the way for good sleeping habits. One recent multinational study4 suggests that having a regular bedtime routine is associated with better sleep in young children up to six years of age, and suggests that the more consistently a bedtime routine is institued and the younger started the better. 

 

A positive bedtime routine involves the institution of a set sequence of pleasurable and calming activities before a child's bedtime. The goal is to establish a behavioral chain leading up to sleep onset and the repetitive nature of a parent’s exact actions before bed will cue a childs brain and body that it’s sleep time.

 

Routine Suggestions

  • Make bedtime the same time every night.

  • Avoid TV or electronic devices at least one hour before bedtime (see Electronic Devices and Sleep).

  • Encourage your child to relax and wind down before bedtime by building a routine of 4 or 5 actitivies. For example, you could start with a soothing bath, washing teeth, reading a book, and listening to gentle music. Make sure this routine is exactly the same every night.

  • Keep the bedtime environment the same all night long - a dark, private space at a comfortable temperature (around 20 degrees celsius) is important for sleep.

Happy Child, Happy Home

A positive bedtime routine is likely not only to eliminate sleep problems, but also lead to improvements in the quality of family relationships5 and maternal mood6. A study7 evaluated the effect of children's bedtime trantrums on their parent's relationships and found that a significant number of relationships were perceived as improved by parents in the positive routine group. Parents attributed the improvement to lowered family stress because of reduced crying and disturbance from the children.

Aromatherapy for Kids 

Essential oils can be incredibly useful for bringing on sleep. Our friends at AROMA QUEEN have developed an exclusive range of Aromatherapy products aimed at children aged one and over, with a 'Story Book'/'Super Hero' theme that they'll all love. Their natural plant-based OILS 4 KIDS range includes a SLEEPY TIME (Calm and Restful Sleep) Blend/inhaler, perfect for children's sleep time. (Note, OILS 4 KIDS are NOT intended to be used for babies, infants or newborns). Aroma Queen is an Australian owned online business that focuses on premium quality essential oils for therapeutic use.

 

Dream Wonderland as

part of a bedtime routine

 

Lullabies and Sleep Time

Lullabies have been used to sing babies to sleep for generations. Around the world and across cultures, lullabies are remarkably similar, following a familiar pattern of simple melodies, lyrics and rhythm. Lullabies are usually in a lilting triple or 6/8 metre which gives them a characteristic swinging or rocking motion, mimicing a babies experience in the womb. They can be peaceful and hypnotic.

 

Gentle lullaby music has been shown8 to slow the heart and respiration rates of prematurely delivered babies and help them feed9 and sleep better. This helps them gain weight, recover quicker and leave hospital sooner.

 

Lullabies are often used for their soothing nature, even for adults. One study10 found lullabies to be the most succesful type of music or sound for relieving stress and improving the overall psychological health of pregnant women. 

 

As well as aiding sleep, lullabies have an educational purpose. They tell stories of the world around us and familiar aspects of childhood than can resonate with a growing child. Listening to music from an early age activates neural pathways in the brain, inspiring creativity, while boosting intellectual and emotional abilities. 

 

 

Dream Wonderland at Sleep Time

Dream Wonderland was written with these traditional qualities in mind. While initially crafted for babies and toddlers Dream Wonderland's imaginative, calming music has also proved a relaxing influence on children up to 8 years of age. And parents too, can benefit from these meditative melodies. 

Specifically structured for sleep time, the lullabies are engaging to start. As each track merges seamlessly into the next, these cradle songs become increasingly simpler, calmer, and soothing. The final track, a 10-minute hypnotic instrumental of all that has come before, leads the listener into their very own Dream Wonderland.

 

Music is one of the few activities that involves using the whole brain (see The Healing Power of Music). Listening to music from an early age activates neural pathways in the brain, inspiring creativity, while boosting intellectual and emotional abilities. 

 

The lyrical content of the lullabies in Dream Wonderland covers subject matter that often fascinates young children. The changing seasons, the night sky filled with stars and planets, rivers and oceans, family and loved ones - these are a few of the topics covered, sometimes accompanied by natural sound effects, such as water and bird song. "I wanted to create something that was not only musically rich and restful for my children, but that would also stimulate their imagination, their vocabulary and their understanding of the world around them,” says Dream Wonderland composer and creator, Abigail Hatherley.

 

The Healing Power of Music

Music and the Brain

 

As music activates many regions of the brain it has many beneficial11 emotional, physical and cognitive effects. Listening to music or playing an instrument can actually make you learn better and enhances higher brain functions12, like reading and literary skills, spatial-temporal reasoning, mathematical abilities, emotional intelligence and memory. There is clear evidence13 that children who take music lessons develop a better memory compared with children who have no musical training.

 

Listening to music after a stroke14 can not only promote behavioural recovery like verbal memory and attention span, but also induces fine-grained neuroanatomical changes in the recovering brain15

 

Music and Pain Management

 

Music has positive effects16 on pain management and can help reduce the sensation and distress of pain. Listening to music can reduce chronic pain from a range of conditions and depression17. 

 

Music and the Heart

 

Relaxing music reduces sympathetic nervous system activity, decreases anxiety, blood pressure, heart and respiratory rate and may have positive effects on sleep via muscle relaxation and distraction from thoughts. Listening to soothing music that is of a slow calming tempo relaxes the heart and breathing rates18 and can reduce high blood pressure19Research20 shows that just 45mins of relaxing music before bedtime can make for a restful night.  Listening to relaxing music reduces stress21 by decreasing the amount of cortisol22, the stress-related hormone produced by the body in response to stress.

 

Music and Immunity

 

Music can boost the immunity. Scientists explain23 that a particular type of music can create a positive and profound emotional experience, which leads to recreation of immune-boosting hormones. Listening to music or singing24 can also decrease levels of stress-related hormone cortisol and higher levels of cortisol can lead to a decreased immune response.

 

Electronic Devices and Sleep

Only recently have scientists begun to understand how sleep is regulated by exposure to light or to darkness. Light stimulates a nerve pathway from the retina in the eye to a part of the brain that controls hormones, body temperature and other functions that play a role in making us feel sleepy or wide awake. At first light each day this body clock begins performing functions like raising body temperature and releasing stimulating hormones like cortisol. When darkness arrives it releases other hormones like melatonin which is associated with sleep onset. The melatonin levels released into the blood stay elevated for about 12 hours - all through the night - before they fall back to barely detectable levels during daytime.

 

But it’s not only sunlight that can directly inhibits the release of melatonin; artificial indoor lighting25, particularly ‘blue’ light emitted from electronic device screens, can prevent the release of melatonin. According to one recent study26, screen viewing prior to bed can lead to difficulty falling and staying asleep. Another study27 suggests that melatonin suppression by light in children was almost twice that in adults. 

 

So instead of watching something on a device screen or TV, encouraging activities such as reading or listening to music before bedtime in a sleep-supportive bedroom (dimmed lights and temperature controlled room) can support your child's sleep.

1. Sleep and Early Cortical Development

2. Sleep Deprivations Negative Impacts On The Human Body 

3. Sleep Needs Across Lifespan - The Sleep Health Foundation 

4. Bedtime Routines for Young Children: A Dose-Dependent Association with Sleep Outcomes 

5. Sleep in the Family

6. A Nightly Bedtime Routine: Impact on Sleep in Young Children and Maternal Mood 

7. Reducing bedtime tantrums: comparison between positive routines and graduated extinction

8. The Effect of Music Listening on Physiological Responses of Premature Infants in the NICU 

9. The effect of music reinforcement for non-nutritive sucking on nipple feeding of premature infants 

10. Effects of music therapy on psychological health of women during pregnancy 

11. Large-scale brain networks emerge from dynamic processing of musical timbre, key and rhythm 

12. Music, Memory and Emotion 

13. Cognitive flexibility modulates maturation and music-training-related changes of neural sound discrimination 

14. Music listening enhances cognitive recovery and mood after middle cerebral artery stroke 

15. Structural changes induced by daily music listening in the recovering brain after middle cerebral artery stroke: a voxel-based morphometry study 

16. Effect of music on power, pain, depression and disability 

17. Music Therapy for Depression

18. Cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and respiratory changes induced by different types of music in musicians and non-musicians

19. The effect of music on hypertensive patients 

20. Music improves sleep quality in older adults 

21. Coping with stress: the effectiveness of different types of music 

22. Effects of relaxing music on salivary cortisol level after psychological stress 

23. The effects of active and passive participation in musical activity on the immune system as measured by salivary immunoglobulin A

24. Effects of choir singing or listening on secretory immunoglobulin A, cortisol, and emotional state

25. Exposure to room light before bedtime suppresses melatonin onset and shortens melatonin duration in humans 

26. Sleep duration, restfulness, and screens in the sleep environment 

27. Influence of light at night on melatonin suppression in children 

References