A Good Night’s Sleep: Why Your Kids Need It
There are few things more challenging as a parent than dealing with sleep-deprived kids. They can be crabby, belligerent or burst into tears without warning. But these emotional displays are just the tip of the iceberg. When your child doesn’t consistently get a good night’s sleep, they suffer in several ways. Conversely, when your child gets the rest they need, they stand to benefit physically, cognitively and emotionally.
How much sleep does my child need?
The amount of sleep your child needs depends on their age.
WebMD states their recommendations for sleep:
1-3 years old: 12-14 hours of sleep
3-6 years old: 10-12 hours of sleep
7-12 years old: 10-11 hours of sleep
12-18: 8-9 hours of sleep
Your child benefits in several ways from a good night’s sleep
- Adequate sleep helps your child grow.
Created by the pituitary gland and released into the bloodstream, growth hormone is primarily produced during sleep. This is important both for children and adults for different reasons. Babies and children who do not get enough sleep experience growth hormone deficiency which easily leads to stunted growth and development.
- Adequate sleep helps your child focus and learn.
When kids are tired, they can act out and struggle to focus. Sadly, many kids are misdiagnosed with ADHD when they’re simply not getting enough sleep at night. When a child gets the rest they need, parents and teachers notice an increase in their ability to focus.
University of Massachusetts Amherst neuroscientists organized a study looking at the correlation between sleep and memory. A group of 40 preschoolers played a memorization game and took a nap afterward. The next week, the same group of preschoolers played the same memorization game and stayed awake afterward. Needless to say, when these preschoolers napped right after the memory game, they retained more information and retained it for a longer period of time.
Clearly, sleep greatly impacts cognitive skill function.
- Adequate sleep limits your child’s risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Obesity: Did you ever wonder how our bodies know when we’re full? They produce a hormone called leptin which tells our brains to stop eating. However, when children don’t get enough sleep, the production of leptin is interrupted. Then, during waking hours, sleep-deprived children tend to overeat and over time, can become obese.
Diabetes: Children who get more sleep are less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. That’s because, the more sleep a child gets, the lower their insulin level, insulin resistance and blood glucose.
Heart disease: When children get good sleep, their blood sugar and cortisol levels remain lower, decreasing their sleeping fight-or-flight response and the risk for vascular damage.
- Adequate sleep keeps your child’s immune system strong.
When your child is sleeping, their body produces cytokines. These proteins have multiple functions, one of which is to combat infections and inflammation. When they don’t get enough sleep, your child’s body won’t produce as many cytokines or other infection-fighting antibodies, increasing their susceptibility to colds and flus.
Create a bedtime routine for your child with these helpful tips
- Teach your child to self-soothe.
Starting in the first few months of life, help foster your child’s ability to self-soothe. Put your baby down for bed when they’re tired but awake, with or without a pacifier. As they get older, allow them to go to sleep with a favorite stuffed animal or blanket. When you rock your child to sleep and carefully put them in their crib or bed, they’re not learning this important skill.
- Keep your bedtime routine predictable.
This is the key to success. Just like your child finds comfort in a predictable daytime routine, keep their bedtime routine consistent from night to night as much as possible.
Choose an order for bathing, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, reading, etc. and stick with it. Put them to sleep at the same time each night. Keep the bedroom dark and incorporate white noise to drown out any background noises.
- Limit screens before bed.
The blue light from screens greatly suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone responsible for regulating a person’s sleep cycle. A July 2020 article in Harvard Health Publishing cites an experiment that compared the effects of blue light vs. green light on a person’s melatonin level. They concluded that “blue light suppresses melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifts circadian rhythms by twice as much.” In other words, screens before bed can impact a child’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
If you want your child to get the most sleep and the best quality sleep possible, keep young children off of screens after dinner and have older children turn in their devices at the same early time each evening.
At LearningRx, we recognize that getting enough sleep is important at any age and stage of life. As a parent, you can help your young child by providing a consistent and predictable bedtime routine. If you’re parenting preteens and teenagers, educate them on all the ways getting a good night’s sleep can keep them healthy and set them up for academic success.
If you notice your child is struggling with cognitive skills and getting more sleep doesn’t seem to help, they may benefit from our brain training services. Take our free brain quiz or sign up for our cognitive skills assessment here!