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Swimming and Sleep with Mini Swimming

Swimming baby

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This month’s Blog around swimming and sleep is written in association with Mini Swimming. Mini Swimming has pools across Essex, and has provided amazing swimming experiences for children for over 10 years. This month we have come together to find out more about how exercise, especially swimming can help children’s sleep.

Swimming lessons with Mini Swimming have always been part of my children’s journey when they were little, and two of them are now confident swimmers, with the third having just started her own little splashy adventure!

We all know swimming is not only fun, but also an essential life skill. Swimming provides little ones with new experiences and sensations and is a lovely activity for parents and children to do together.

However, we have all been there, they have had their swimming lesson and it is the drive home. You want to keep them awake until their next nap time, however…swimming seems to fill most little ones up with one thing after they finish – the desire to go to sleep. So, how can we prevent this, when is it ok,  and how do we ensure we can maximise great sleep whilst making the most of swimming lessons?

This blog will equip you with some top tips on incorporating swimming and sleep into your day, without risking a tired little one (and the possible meltdown as a result) and will also explain how swimming can support great sleep.

Exercise supports sleep (at all ages!)

It won’t be a surprise to you that exercise supports sleep, whether you are 6 months or 60 years old. Many scientific studies show a link between the two and how exercise and movement can help improve sleep quality. We also know that exercise, even light or moderate, releases those all important endorphins which can help boost your mood and help us relax. Alongside this mood boost, Griffith University (2012) also found that children who learn how to swim at a young age, on average, reach their developmental milestones earlier.

Whilst it might feel like little ones, especially babies, aren’t getting a full workout throughout their swimming lesson – they will be doing more than you think! The freedom of the water helps them to exercise more muscles than they would out of the water. The different noises and experiences of splashing water, bubbles, singing with movement, all help stimulate babies brains which helps with development. This helps to explain why any of us who have driven or walked somewhere after a swim lesson know that it is exhausting for them, as it is a prime time for a baby to try to fall asleep!

Sleep and swimming

So how do we incorporate swimming lessons into a little one’s day and ensure this sleepy exercise doesn’t get in the way of any nap schedules.

Firstly it is important to understand a little about how babies and children sleep. Now, all of our little ones are different and this also applies to sleep, so the information below is an average, so there will always be some who vary outside these guides.  

Over a 24 hour period, we need less sleep as we get older. The following is a general guide from the National Sleep Foundation:

Age RangeRecommended hours of sleep per 24 hours
Birth – 6 weeks15-18 hours (including naps)
6 weeks – 4 months12-16 hours (including naps)
4-12 months12-16 hours (including naps)
1-2 years11-14 hours (including naps)
3-5 years0-13 hours (including naps)
6-12 years9-12 hours
13-18 years8-10 hours
18 years and older7 hours or more
Average sleep needs for different ages

Depending on the age of the little one, this total sleep may include naps. For most babies and toddlers, they can only last a certain amount of sleep before needing to have another sleep. For more information about how long they can typically last, visit this blog post on the Little Dreams Chelmsford and Colchester website.

How can we easily incorporate swimming and naps?

Here are some hints and tips on how to manage naps during swimming days:

  • Try and time your swimming lesson at a time when they would normally be awake. This sounds really obvious, however an overtired baby isn’t going to be able to enjoy or cope with a swimming lesson compared to a well rested little one. As they get older and their naps reduce, you may need to consider changing the time of your class.
  • Ideally, time the lesson in the earlier part of an awake window so they are well rested, however make sure you leave time for a feed or meal if they need one!
  • Consider a nap as part of your journey, so they have a planned nap in the car, or pram on the way to or from swimming. Some little ones will transfer from the pram/car seat into their cot once you get back. When I was on maternity leave I would walk to and from the swimming pool. It was great exercise for me, but also gave my kids some fresh air and a nap on the way there.
  • If you know their naps will be interrupted, don’t be afraid to let them have slightly longer during the other naps that day.
  • For older babies and toddlers, consider a snack with natural sugars to give them a little boost before they go home. Children (and adults) are usually hungry after all the splashing so this can help with both keeping them awake and avoiding any grumpiness before you get back! Foods such as apples, bananas and grapes (make sure they are cut up), are great options. For older children, an oat based snack bar can keep them going for a bit longer.
  • Often swimming can result in a super long nap when they get home. If you get them back awake (amazing), however if they look like they will not last until the next awake window, don’t be afraid to put them in their cot or bed early. An overtired little one will find it harder to go to sleep and may also wake early from their nap (even if they need longer.)

However, the most important part of this blog is simply to have fun and make the most of being in the water with your little ones, seeing them develop water confidence and skills, and hopefully a lot of splashing!

A bit about Mini Swimming:

At Mini Swimming, we provide classes for babies from 6 weeks, toddlers and children up to 10 years old. 

We believe that learning to swim should be fun and something that can be enjoyed no matter what age or ability you might be. At our heart, we at Mini Swimming want to see children feeling safe, confident and happy in the water. Our classes are designed to ensure that the children foster this lifelong love of swimming.

Little Dreams Consulting Chelmsford and Colchester are baby and child sleep consultants, based in Colchester, working with tired parents around Essex and the UK to help everybody get a better night’s sleep. We work with families with little ones from 4 months to 10 years old to allow you to help your child fall asleep whilst meeting all of their emotional and physical needs, no cry-it-out, no leaving them to it but an evidenced based, clear approach, to help you all get a better night’s sleep.

If you are looking for more routine for your little ones sleep, find out more about our packages.

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