Seeking Sleep: A Parent’s Guide to the Importance of a Child’s Consistent Slumber
A Parent’s Guide to the Importance of a Child’s Consistent Slumber
It’s 8:00 p.m. Are your kids in bed yet? Spoiler alert: They should be.
A full night’s sleep for children should sit at the top of your family priority list. Unfortunately, bedtime is one of the easiest habits to let slide. Sleep is essential to a child’s growth, development and health in more ways than one.
From A to Zzzz’s
According to the National Sleep Foundation, toddlers need around 11-14 hours of sleep in a day, while preschoolers, school-aged children and teens need between nine and 13. If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Kids do need a lot of sleep. Children are constantly undergoing rapid development. Throw in softball practice, running around the neighborhood and playing with siblings and you have even more reasons to be sure they’re getting enough slumber to recharge and replenish their energies.
The easiest way to make sure children get to sleep on time is to enforce it yesterday. Parents must draw a hard line in the sand. This issue affects your child’s health, which is priority one. Think of it this way: You wouldn’t let your child run out into a busy street, right? Too little sleep is the busy street. It’s a non-negotiable.
Sleepy side effects
Many times parents see negative behavior in children and often look to medicine to fix it. However, research suggests that bumping up the sleep first might nip the problem in the bud. ADHD symptoms, tantrum throwing, irritability, poor decision making and learning deficiencies all have been linked to sleep deprivation. Further, the National Sleep Foundation estimates 25 to 30 percent of developing children are not getting enough consistent sleep. With numbers like those, a few more hours on your child’s sleep clock might actually prevent prescriptions.
Sleepy may equal heavy
Research from Attention, Behavior and Sleep Laboratory suggests that sleep deprivation most likely contributes to some other big problems, namely obesity, diabetes and even high blood pressure. True, nutrition is linked to these as well, but the two go hand in hand. A poor diet high in sugar can lead to hyperactivity, which may make falling asleep difficult, which leads to poor eating choices.
Sleep is healing
There’s a reason a doctor will tell you to get a good night’s sleep and call in the morning. Sleep can be healing. Research shows that a child’s (or adult’s) being sleep deprived can wreak havoc on the body’s ability to fight off infection. Deep, restful sleep contributes to building up the body’s immune system, helping it to fight off all those millions of germs kids come into contact with daily.
Quality AND quantity
The number of hours of sleep a child receives is extremely important, but the quality of that slumber is just as pertinent. To be sure your kids are getting the deep, restful sleep they need, consistency is a key factor. “Catching up” on sleep isn’t a real thing, so allowing children to sleep 15 hours on Saturday won’t make up for the two to three hours they’re missing during the week. Set bedtimes and wake-up times and keep your kids bound to those times.
Tired now, problems later
A recent Harvard study found that children who received an insufficient amount of sleep at preschool age had a higher risk of neurobehavioral function by age 7. All the more reason to start excellent sleep behaviors now, whether your child is 2 or 12. It’s never too early to lay down the law on sleep, so don’t feel guilty about making it a priority in your home. Tonight.
Sleep Kit: Three Easy Ways to Increase the Quality of Shut-Eye
- Get a noise machine. Little noises in the night can create wake-ups that interrupt important sleep cycles. The gentle sound of rain falling or the lull of a train chugging down the tracks can prevent waking up and encourage deeper sleep.
- Lights out. At the earliest age possible, consider blackout curtains in your child’s bedroom. If your child has issues with total darkness, utilize a night light.
- Technology free. Electronic devices like iPads, phones and even televisions should go off two hours before bed. Without question, phones and screens should not be in bedrooms during sleep hours.
Kim Antisdel is a freelance writer and interior design sales rep for KC. She lives in Liberty with her husband, stepdaughters and toddler son.
As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.