Children and Sleep
How many parents wish they had some helpful information to aid them in making sure their child is getting adequate sleep? Children today seem to have a multitude of activities available to them that delay bedtime and interfere with their obtaining the proper amount of sleep. Poor sleep habits can affect performance in school, sports or work activities. This article addresses some suggestions to help parents determine whether their children, from infants to teens, are getting enough sleep.
Why More Sleep Is Needed In Children And Young Adults
It’s during sleep that the body replenishes itself. Adequate sleep allows the brain to sort out daily activities to include memory retention. Studies have shown that students who get 8-10 hours of sleep perform better than students pulling an “all night study session”.
The following guidelines for sleep are recommended:
- Infants To One Year – Up to 18 hours a day is spent sleeping. This includes naps.
- Toddlers One To Three Years – Recommendations are 16 hours including naps.
- Five To Twelve Years – Twelve hours per day is ideal without naps.
- Thirteen To Eighteen Years – Ten hours per day without naps.
- Release Of Growth Hormone – Tissue repair and body development occurs during deep sleep. This is important for muscle development and growth.
- Memory – Helps the brain sort out the day’s activities and store memory. The hormone cortisol drops and this enhances morning alertness.
- Immune System – Adequate sleep builds the body’s defense against colds and flu.
- Weight Control – Hormones are released during sleep that help control hunger during the day. If a child is sleep deprived, chances are that food will be used as a supplement for the sleep deprivation. The body senses the need to eat more, which can develop into weight gain.
- Pain Control – Inadequate sleep lowers the pain threshold and increases the inflammatory process. If your child participates in sports, adequate sleep is essential for tissue repair and pain control.
How Should I Prepare My Child For Sleep?
In today’s society there are numerous activities and commitments that make it difficult to get to bed on time. Consistency in bedtime is a key factor for your child to obtain a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. Suggestions that help develop good sleep habits include the following:
- Nutrition – The importance of Omega-3 fatty acids (particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the sleep habits of children was studied at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Researchers found that it increases the quality of sleep and decreases the risk of developing sleep disorders. The researchers also found that there was less waking time during the night and there was more efficiency of sleep ratio to time in bed. The study revealed that as sleep problems developed in a child, so did behavioral problems.
- Prior To Bedtime – No television, computers or video games at least one hour prior to bedtime. The blue light from these devices are brain stimulators.
- Exercise – No exercise for at least 1 hour before bedtime.
- Food and Drink – Caffeine products such as chocolate or sodas should be avoided. Caffeine stays in the body for approximately 6 hours after consumption. Eating should also be avoided 1.5 to 2 hours before bedtime.
- Bedtime – Have a regular set bedtime 7 days a week. This will be increasingly difficult as the child enters high school, but every effort should be made with the understanding that rules may need to be bent due to school and social activities. Try and make that “rule bending” as infrequent as possible.
- Bedroom Temperature – Set the room temperature to the low 70’s F° (21 C) in summer and mid to upper 60’s F° (18 C) during the winter months for an ideal sleep environment. A lower body temperature assists in falling asleep. A warm bath or shower before bed can also aid sleep. This sets the body in motion to begin the cooling process.
- Electronics – Place all cell phones, video games, iPods and iPads on the kitchen counter to eliminate the temptation to text or play games before bed. Do a check of the items every night.
Parents need to set a bedtime for their children and stick to it. Yes, on occasion there may be a night when an exception needs to be made. Firmness with your child will pay great dividends in performance at school, in sports or at work. Don’t wait for your children to become tired before sending them to bed; this develops poor sleep habits that can result in a spiral of problems in the future.
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