Your children probably lead busy, energetic lives, no matter how old they are. But their growing minds and bodies require a healthy sleep pattern in order to function properly.
The benefits of good sleep are endless; as mentioned in Helping New Year Nerves, sleep efficiency (not sleep duration) contributes significantly to improved grades in maths and languages. Unfortunately, studies have indicated that up to 7 out of 10 children don’t get enough sleep, which can lead to temper tantrums, concentration and behavioural problems, and much more.
In this article, we look at why this is and how you can ensure your children get the best possible night’s sleep. How does sleep affect your child?
Sleep allows our bodies to repair and rejuvenate through repairing tissue, boosting muscle mass, synthesising proteins, releasing growth hormones and maintaining a strong immune system (sleep-deprived children, for example, are much more prone to common colds and flu).
Another benefit to sleeping well is weight management. Studies have shown that young children who get less than 10 hours sleep a night are three times more likely to be obese than those getting 12 or more.
Ever noticed how, when you’re tired, you’re prone to crankiness and moodiness? The same applies to your children as well. Lack of sleep negatively affects the way emotions regulate, increasing your stress levels through amplified anxiety and aggression. While sleep won’t eliminate stress, it increases readiness to cope with it.
Studies have also shown that while we sleep, our brains process and consolidate memories, helping your children to remember the important things in life. In contrast, losing sleep makes you more likely to make silly mistakes and impairs problem-solving and focus, as brain neurons aren’t able to function optimally.
Most of Life Education’s modules give children and their families some information about sleep, along with other basic needs like balanced diet and physical activity, to keep our bodies healthy.
Here's a list of things that you can do to get your child to sleep better:
A can of coke or a sugary snack before bed can hinder any or all of the good work you’ve done in getting your child to bed. Diet dictates how energetic and active we are, and as you’re no doubt aware, sugar and caffeine are two hyperactive ingredients not conducive to sleep.
Colourful, interactive stimuli are detrimental to your sleep because it keeps the brain active at exactly the wrong moment. Whether your children are chatting with friends, playing games or watching their favourite show, modern technology is making it harder for us all to sleep. Turn off all technology an hour or so before their bedtime. Instead, they could listen to an audiobook or relaxing music, take a warm bath, do some relaxation exercises or a play a quiet game like a puzzle.
Regular sleep times help maintain our body clock’s circadian rhythm and keeping these consistent will make it easier to fall asleep. This tip is especially difficult during the school holidays when routines are often relaxed, the days are longer and activities more varied. However, it can make a big difference.
As a general guide, your child’s sleeping needs naturally decrease by about 15 minutes each year. Toddlers and pre-schoolers need around 12-14 hours per day, primary school-aged children should get 10-12 hours and teens will usually want 9 hours. (Grown-ups do best with about 8 hours). Do your best to meet these requirements.
Hopefully, these tips will help your children sleep like a log and wake up fresh as a daisy each and every day.