Learning the habit of good sleep
Sleep has become a precious commodity—we love it and need it, but rarely get enough of it. Perhaps surprisingly, that goes for kids as well as adults.
During the school year, when children are at their busiest, it can be particularly hard to achieve optimal sleep hours in your household. Early school start times, after-school sports, family dinners around the table and evening homework can mount up to a triathlon of activities and schedules to manage.
Additionally, time spent on computers, electronic devices or in front of the TV can add to the list of tempting distractions keeping us from closing our eyes at night.
It is easy to forget that younger people need even more sleep than adults. The younger the person, the more sleep they require. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the majority of school-aged children and teens today are not getting enough sleep, affecting their ability to perform and threatening their overall wellness.
The impact of consistently getting too little sleep can be seen in performance. Indications can include delayed reaction time, difficulty completing tasks in a timely manner, and making more mistakes. Lack of sleep can also be observed in hunger patterns, since sleep helps to regulate the hormones responsible for feeling hungry or full and the ability to maintain a healthy weight.
Sleep has been identified as integral to mood, emotional wellbeing and ability to handle stress. Inadequate sleep in teens ages 13 to 16 has been linked to higher blood pressure.
Promoting sleep in your household is vital to childhood health, physical growth and mental performance. Naps are a fine way to boost short-term energy and performance, but don’t provide the memory consolidation, muscle and tissue repair, and energy rejuvenation benefits of nighttime sleep.
Here are top reasons to make sleep a priority for your children:
• promotes growth
• helps the heart
• supports weight management
• helps combat germs
• reduces risk of injury
• increases attention span
• boosts memory and learning
How much sleep does your child need? According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
Newborns 16 - 18 hours
Preschool-aged children 11 - 12 hours
School-aged children 10 + hours
Teens 9 - 10 hours
The best way to encourage good sleep in your house is to build a consistent bedtime routine and sleep schedule. Finding ways to connect with your children, such as reading a bedtime story or taking after dinner strolls together, can improve nighttime sleep.
Avoiding any late-night snacking, sugar and caffeine is important to conditioning the body for sleep, as is turning off electronics, TVs and computers in bedrooms. “Unplug” two hours before bed. This gives your brain a chance to unwind and get ready for sleep. Store all digital devices (e.g., smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc.) in an area of the house other than the bedrooms. Use an alarm clock rather than your smartphone or tablet as a wakeup device. Keeping room temperatures on the cooler side has also been shown to aid sleep.