The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep
Posted on December 20, 2017 by CHS
Sleep is a necessity for everyone; it is how we rest our body and recharge for the next day. When we don’t sleep enough, our performance level drops, our immune system weakens, and we don’t feel like ourselves throughout the day. Sleep is especially important for children who are still developing.
The amount of sleep children need changes as they grow. The guideline below, taken from our Sleep brochure, lists the amount of total daily sleep your child needs based on his age group:
- 0-3 months: 14-20 hours
- 3-6 months: 14-16 hours
- 6-12 months: 13-15 hours
- 12-24 months: 12-14 hours
- 2-4 years: 11-13 hours
- 4-7 years: 10-12 hours
- 7-11 years: 10 or more hours
Sarah Mahoney from Parents Magazine provides the following information on why adequate sleep for your child is so important.
“Sleep Promotes Growth”
As parents, we want our children to grow to be strong and healthy. While eating right and exercising are important factors, sleeping well is also as important. According to Judith Owens, M.D., director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center, “growth hormone is primarily secreted during deep sleep.” Ensuring your child gets an adequate amount of sleep can help increase his chances of growing healthily.
Sleep Improves Health
Getting the proper amount of sleep can improve your child’s overall health. For example, both the body’s immune system and eating habits are linked to having a healthy sleep routine. While in deep sleep, your body produces proteins called cytokines which protect your body against infection and illness. When you are sleep deprived, your cytokine count drops, which makes you more vulnerable to colds and other illnesses. Research also suggests a correlation between lack of sleep in children and health issues, such as obesity. According to Sarah Mahoney, your body “creates the hormone leptin, which signals [you] to stop eating” when you have eaten enough. A lack of sleep can negatively impact the production of leptin and can cause obesity in the long run. With an adequate amount of sleep, your child will be less likely to get sick and more likely to maintain a healthy weight.
Sleep Enhances Your Child’s Learning
Getting the right amount of sleep will increase your child’s attention span and boost her learning at school. Children can get moody when they don’t sleep enough and it can affect their day at school. According to Dr. Owens, “children who consistently sleep fewer than ten hours a night before age 3 are three times more likely to have hyperactivity and impulsivity problems by age 6.” This means that a child could be misdiagnosed with a mental disorder like ADHD because he seems distracted at school when he is really just tired. Did you know that your child’s brain continues to learn while he is sleeping? In a study completed by neuroscientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, children who took a nap were more likely to retain information they learned versus children who did not take a nap. The study tested 40 preschoolers by having them play a game similar to Memory. Children took a nap the first week and did not take a nap the following week. The week the kids didn’t take their nap, they forgot 15 percent of what they learned, while they retained everything they learned the week they took naps. Encourage your young child to take naps, as it can improve his learning at school. Making sure your child gets the right amount of sleep from early in his childhood can help him have better learning experiences in school growing up.
Here are some tips on how to help your child get the right amount of sleep, provided by Healthline.
Create a Bedtime Routine that Works for Your Child
Having a set routine will signal your child that her bed time is coming up. For example, your child’s routine can be washing up, brushing her teeth, story time in bed, and then going to sleep. Knowing what is coming up next will create a comforting atmosphere that is ideal for falling asleep. After following her set routine for a while, your child will feel sleepy naturally by bedtime.
Turn Off All Screens Two Hours before Bedtime
With the advancement of technology, it is getting harder to turn off all screens before bedtime. To help your child, keep all screens away two hours before bedtime, make your bedrooms screen-free zones and use an actual alarm clock rather than using your phone for alarms. This method can help your family have better sleep in the long run. According to Healthline, “research has shown that the lights from television screen, phone, or computer monitor can interfere with the production of the hormone melatonin.” A high level of melatonin helps people get sleepy and sleep better at night. The research states “just a half an hour of TV or other screen time before bed can disrupt [the production of melatonin] enough to keep your child up an extra two hours.” Do your best to keep all screens out of the bedrooms or at least turned off at night so that your family can get the sleep they need.
Set up Your Child’s Room to Encourage Sleep
Put all the toys away so that your child won’t get distracted at night and have your child’s favorite stuffed animal or blanket ready in his bed. Try to have a soft and comfortable bed and a dark environment (consider using room-darkening shades). You may choose to play soft, relaxing music while your child is falling asleep, but be sure to switch it off once she has fallen asleep. By making the room as comfortable and peaceful as possible, you can make it easier for your child to fall asleep at night.
Reassure Your Child
Your child may have bedtime fears that are keeping him from sleeping at night. Try your best to reassure your child, instead of dismissing his fears. If comforting him doesn’t work, some of the examples Healthline provides are to buy a special “toy guard” that will stand guard at night, or to spray the room with “monster spray” before bed. You can fill a plain spray bottle with water and a few drops of lavender essential oil and stick a “monster spray” label on it. These are just some ideas to help your child to feel safe at night.