child-winterRecently, several clients have contacted us with challenges they are having with getting their toddlers to nap well and keeping them from climbing up the walls. This deep freeze we are experiencing is making it very challenging for children to get enough outdoor time, if any.  There are 3 main benefits from outside time that help improve sleep and demeanor:

Light – Outdoor light, even on an overcast day, is not only important for vitamin D, which we know improves mood and health significantly, it is also invaluable for promoting good sleep rhythms. In particular, exposure to bright light in the morning after waking up and again in the afternoon helps to kick-start and strengthen our wakeful system. When the wakeful system peaks after about 12 hours, the sleep system kicks in, and we all want that.

Activity – Running around and playing outside is great exercise and besides strengthening the body, it also helps to tire children out and makes it less likely that they will need to climb the walls when they go inside.

Fresh Air – Getting fresh air in the day is important on many levels. Research has shown that fresh air in the daytime promotes better sleep at night.

Do you recall those long days outdoors in warmer times? Was tucking your child into bed easier? I know for me I never sleep better than when I am outside all day. One additional thing that helps children (and adults) feel good and connected is being out in nature. Studies have shown that even looking at trees from a window can lift your mood.

How to get the advantages of outdoors when you are trapped in a Polar Vortex:

  • Try short outings – Going outside for even 5 minutes a day can make a big difference
  • Take the long way to the car – Instead of running from the house to the car, try walking around the yard first or count to 100 before jumping in. Make a game of it.
  • Play in the window – you may be able to replicate the wonderful effects of the sun from inside your home. Your child does not necessarily need to be looking outside for this benefit; the light can be in her peripheral vision. However, she should be close enough to the window that she is casting a shadow.
  • Let the dog out – or let your imaginary dog out. Even a short burst of fresh air and outdoor light can make a difference. When you ‘let the dog out’, open the door all the way with your child, stick your head out and take a deep breath before closing it. My dog, Faro, goes in and out about 10 times a day. I think that is a lot but at least it improves the air quality in my home and gives me a chance to take in the scenery.
  • Go on an outing – Find an indoor place where your child can just run around and expend all her energy.

Fortunately, warmer days are around the corner. Until then hang in there and stay warm!

Post a comment describing what are you doing to get through the deep freeze.

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Article by Andrea Strang, KinderSleep