Sleep: it’s vital for everyone. Whether you’re 8 or 80, you have to make sure you’re getting enough sleep on a regular basis. And for children, sleep is extra important.
Especially after the summer holidays, many parents find themselves struggling to shift their children back to a working sleep routine.
Getting the right amount of sleep is vital for growing kids.
Indeed, recent research on kids has connected the importance of sleep not only to cognition, but to behavior and mood as well.
While much is unknown about how the brain develops, some researchers theorize the REM phase of sleep is when the brain produces and consolidates neural networks for memory and cognition.
Ralph Downey, chief of sleep medicine at Loma Linda University and Children’s Hospital in Sounthern California, says that REM sleep is kind of a “formatting of the brain”.
Before children turn 6, they will on average need between 12 and 13 hours of sleep per night.
Then, from age 6, they will need 10 to 11 hours of sleep.
The amount of sleep obviously drops once children reach adolescence, but they will still ideally need at least 9 hours.
Why is this so important? What happens if a child becomes sleep deprived?
Sleep deprived children have different reactions than sleep deprived adults.
Children who don’t get enough sleep start becoming wired and hyperexcitable.
They start showing behaviors similar to children with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).
Their emotions may become erratic, and they may have a hard time listening or paying attention.
Researchers at the University of Montreal report that a study of young children showed that those who slept significantly fewer hours than the recommended 10 were more hyperactive and impulsive than those who got plenty of shuteye and scored lower on two cognitive skills tests. That doesn’t bode well for harmony with the teacher.
Lack of sleep can affect a child’s cognitive performance at school entry. There is said to be a critical period in early childhood when the lack of sleep is particularly detrimental to development, even if sleep habits improve later on.
What can you do to help children sleep more and sleep better?
Some children dread bedtime. That’s why its important to let them know how good it is for them very earlier on, so they don’t miss out on the benefits of it.
Here are a few things you can do.
1/ Create positive associations with Bedtime.
First thing you can do to help children sleep is creating positive associations with sleep. Don’t make bedtime seem like a punishment. Make it seem like a reward. Associating happy thoughts and things the child really enjoys with bedtime, will make going to bed earlier so much easier. And everybody wins!
2/ Create a relaxing wind-down routine bedfore bed.
Another thing you can do to help children sleep: a wind-down routine. It’s a good idea to create a relaxing routine for children to let them know it’s almost time for bed and they need to relax. This routine can involve reading a bedtime story, a relaxing bubble bath, or turning on soft, relaxing music in their bedroom.
3/ Create a bedroom environment that promotes good sleep.
Removing televisions, bright lights can also help children sleep. A bedroom should be as least stimulating as possible.
Also, studies have shown that colors can also affect children: light pale colors are often used to create a relaxing atmosphere.
4/ Make bedtime non negociable.
It can be hard to help children sleep. Sometimes, children just don’t want to go to bed.
However, it’s important to take the time to explain to them why they need their sleep. Let them know it’s for their very own health and wellbeing. Talk to them about the benefits of them getting their sleep. More often than not, they might understand.