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5 life-changing tips to improve an athletic child’s sleep

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There are many ways we can encourage children to be healthy and take part in activities that improve their cognition, physical fitness or emotional health. But how often do we place the same amount of importance on sleep?

According to the Sleep Council of the UK, there isn’t a hard and fast rule about how much sleep each child needs, and individuality should be taken into account. However, if there are signs that your child is showing that require an adjustment somewhere, it might just be the amount of sleep they’re getting. As an overall generalisation, the CDC recommends the following (1):

Sleep table

What are the effects of sleep deprivation:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Lack of concentration and ADHD
  • No motivation
  • Weakened immune system
  • Increased risk of heart disease

Sleep is a brain-boosting activity that can transform a child’s life. Sleep helps to heal, regenerate and recover most of your bodies functions including your heart and blood vessels, your emotional health, improve your immune system and much more.

For athletes in particular, sleep helps to improve:

  • Coordination
  • Cognition and mental functioning including working memory
  • Creativity and problem solving
  • Performance intensity
  • Technique and speed
  • Motivation and attitude

So how can you help your child sleep better?

1 | Remove blue light before sleep

Blue light is the enemy of sleep. Digital gadgets – the TV, phones, laptops etc. have been shown to inhibit the production of melatonin which is needed for sleep (2).

In our modern world, much of the time, these gadgets are used to ‘numb out’ or relax and be entertained after a long day of school, physical activity and homework. Establishing a new routine can be difficult at first but when it comes to sleep patterns, and our health, it has been recommended that blue light be eliminated two hours before sleep. It is also highly recommended not to allow a TV in your child’s room. 

If it’s possible, two hours before bed, introduce soft lighting, audiobooks or reading, boardgames, conversation, skill competitions (check out our YouTube Channel to find some ideas) or a brisk family walk outside (if you live in an area that allows you to do so).

2 | Spend your energy during the day

Many people have experienced the reduction of activity during lockdown. The longer children sit in front of an iPad or TV, the longer they don’t exercise, the harder it is for them to get back into physical activity and the worse it is for their sleep. Try break these habits as lockdown rules lighten.

A sure way to get your children moving is to introduce their favourite sport or outdoor activity. If they love soccer, find out more about our brain-centred training here.

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3 | Healthy diet

Portion sizes before bed can help to increase the quality of sleep. Too large or too small portion sizes can create discomfort and cause sleep to be interrupted. Healthy portion sizes during the day can help to reduce the quantity of food needed in the evenings. Caffeinated, sugary or stimulating drinks should be eliminated a couple of hours before bed and allow water to take precedence.

4| Reduce stress levels

If there are concerns playing on your child’s mind, encourage them to talk through them. Phones or the television are often used as devices of distraction from stress. Try to encourage them to verbalise their thoughts or if they’re not comfortable talking, to write them down on a piece of paper. Ask questions and listen. Encourage laughter before bed. If it’s needed, introduce breathing activities to help your children relax more.

5 | Build a habit of bathing or showering before bed

There is a drop in your body’s temperature after a bath or shower, which has been shown to induce sleep (3). Research has indicated that the best time to bathe is one – two hours before bed.

Have your found other ways to improve your child’s sleep? Leave us comment!



Blue Light, Brain, Brain-Based Training, Brain-boosting tips, Brain-centred Training, Children, Concentration, Focus, Healthy Diet, IQ Football, Reduce Stress Levels in Children, Routine, Screen-free, Sleep, Sleep benefits, Sleep deprivation, Soccer, Soccer Academy

Sean Szabo

Recognised as a leading brain-centred football coach in Gauteng, Sean Szabo is an English FA qualified coach who has worked internationally assisting player’s motor and technical football skills, as well as their cognitive development on and off the field. IQ Football was founded in 2015 by Sean as an amalgamation of his passion for football coaching, mentoring, and brain-centred research.

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