Tips & tricks for a perfect night’s sleep and better school performance

For some it’s so easy (“as soon as my head touches the pillow, I’m gone”), for others a lifelong struggle (“I see every hour on the clock”). Difficulty falling asleep, waking several times a night… a good night’s sleep is not easy. But Susanne Willekes, founder of The Sleep Agency, knows: “Sleep is a necessity of life, not a luxury”. Together with her team, she helps parents and families in the Netherlands and abroad to achieve a better night’s sleep and thus quality of life. According to recent American research, 25-50% of children (6 months to 12 years) sleep badly. Teenagers have even more trouble getting a good night’s sleep.

The importance of a good night’s sleep
Lack of sleep can have serious consequences, not only in the moment itself, but also at a later age. A prolonged lack of sufficient sleep can lead to obesity, depression, decline in cognitive functioning (perceiving, thinking, language, consciousness, memory, attention and concentration) and thus a negative effect on school performance.

While sleeping, your body and mind get the opportunity to relax and recover, which is necessary to operate at an optimal level. If you enjoy a good night’s sleep, this will have a positive effect on your mood, resilience, brain development, memory, weight, motor skills, energy level, immune system and school performance. What many people don’t know is that babies and children also have to make growth hormone. Long-term lack of sleep at a young age can therefore have significant long-term consequences.

Correlation between sleep and school performance
A good night’s sleep can improve the cognitive functioning of children and teenagers influence positively. This is partly because when you sleep, oxygen is supplied to it the brain, which helps in processing information. This is how the brain finds rest and becomes prepared to absorb new information. Enough sleep also contributes to increasing concentration. So, a good night’s sleep is absolutely necessary for good school performance!

Expert tips: how to encourage a good night’s sleep
– Choose a fixed sleeping rhythm: go to bed about the same every night.

– Maintain good sleep hygiene: Make sure the bedroom is dark, tidy and clean; ensure a cool temperature, ideally between 16-18 degrees.

– Put all mobile devices in the bedroom on airplane mode so you are not interrupted.

– Stop using a mobile device an hour before going to bed. The blue light from screens prevents the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, and thus has a sleep-disrupting effect. In addition, certain activities on screens, such as gaming, increase the heart rate and blood pressure and activate the brain, making it more difficult to fall asleep.

– Provide structure and routine: use the same routine every time before going to bed: packing bags for the next day, showering, brushing teeth, reading. At some point your brain knows: it’s time to go to sleep.

– Try to do homework as much as possible during the day, before dinner. To do homework, the brain has to work hard and this leads to a head full of thoughts.

– Movement is key! Exercising for half an hour a day helps you sleep better at night. High-intensity training in the three hours before you go to bed, however, is not a good idea, as this creates adrenaline.

– Spend time outside. Outdoor air and sunlight have a positive effect on sleep. Spending at least an hour a day outside improves your sleep.

– Be careful with your diet: avoid heavy meals, junk food, caffeine and alcohol before going to sleep.

– Stop worrying! This is easier said than done, but very important. Before going to bed, write down everything you’re worried about, and save your worries for later.

About Susanne Willekes
Susanne Willekes is the first certified child sleep coach in the Netherlands. She followed the Gentle Sleep Coach training with Kim West in America and started her practice The Sleep Agency in 2015. She has published two books about sleep for babies and toddlers. In addition, Susanne developed the sleep and nutrition app Sleepeez for babies and writes for parenting platform Ouders van Nu.

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