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There’s healing power in a good night’s sleep

kidsLINK supporting kids, family to adopt healthy routines

By:  Natalie Hamilton

kidsLINK is helping kids catch their zzzs.

“Adequate shut-eye helps regulate mood and behaviour and gives the mind and body a chance to heal,” say kidsLINK’s Naturopathic Doctor, Jennifer Forristal and Children’s Mental Health Services Director, Barb Ward.

Pre-schoolers and school-aged children require between 10-11 hours of sleep each night. For children with mental health issues, a good night’s sleep can help decrease aggression, hyperactivity and behavioural challenges. It can also lower levels of anxiety and improve some of the symptoms associated with depression.

“There’s a huge link there with many of the concerns kidsLINK is addressing,” Forristal says.

Recognizing the connection between sleep and well-being, kidsLINK is supporting children, youth and their families to develop healthy sleep routines.

“One of the best ways to do that is to talk to the child,” Ward says.

Children are often the source of many creative ideas about what might help contribute to a better night’s sleep – whether it be a dream catcher in the window to net the good dreams or a box in the closet to catch the “monsters,” Ward and Forristal note.

“It’s really individualized,” Forristal says. “Every child is different. Every family is different.”

While kidsLINK embraces an individualized approach to care, there are some general habits children and their families can adopt for promoting better sleep. kidsLINK recommends engaging in a relaxing ritual about one hour before bedtime, keeping the bedroom as cool and as dark as possible and removing distractions such as televisions and computers. Try to slow the pace of household activity to a state of calm before bedtime. During the day, children should get fresh air and exercise well before bedtime and stop consuming caffeine 4-6 hours before retiring for the evening. Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day can also contribute to better and consistent sleep routines.

kidsLINK also teaches techniques such as mindfulness, relaxation and yoga to help promote a good night’s rest.

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