Sleep is an essential part of daily life for people of all ages. For children, sleep helps them grow, combat illness, and recover from action-filled days of new experiences. Children grow rapidly and are learning a wealth of information on a daily basis; they need downtime to consolidate all of this information. Well rested children are better able to cope with daily tasks and regulate their emotions.
How much sleep is required?
The average hours of sleep required for children ranges between nine and ten per night. In addition to this noctural sleep, younger children also need one or two naps until the age of five, when they typically grow out of this phase.
Adolescents require approximately nine hours of sleep; however, many are only getting seven to seven and a half due to extracurricular activities, homework, and social lives. Teenage circadian rhythms lead to a natural time-shift toward later bedtimes and awakenings, which can be difficult when they need to get up early for school or sports.
Consequences of deprived sleep in children
Impaired cognitive function
Children require the appropriate amount of sleep to function well in school. Difficulty with comprehension, verbal fluency, abstract reasoning, planning, problem-solving, attentiveness and memory are all common impairments in children who do not get enough sleep.
Overtired children have a paradoxical effect and often become hyper stimulated. Once they have reached that point it is much more difficult to get them to sleep and can lead to: hyperactivity, aggression, impulsivity, and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Obesity and immune system deficiencies can develop over time.
Life-long sleep problems
Like many other life-long habits, sleep is developed from a young age. If your child is having trouble now, it’s likely to stay with them long-term without proper intervention.
10 bedtime tips to get your child to sleep
Children like routine because it gives them a sense of what is to come. They like consistency and repetition. Although we as parents may find it challenging to sing the same song or read the same book, children thrive on this.
Both regular bed times and wake times are important.
3. Calming activities
Calming activities one hour prior to bed helps children wind down from their busy day. For example, reading, massage and warm baths are great options. Studies have shown that children who are read to before bed enjoy better and longer sleep.
4. Exercise and daytime activities
During the day we need to make sure children are stimulated and have a variety of activities that nourish their senses—both physical and intellectual. Aim for at least 60 minutes of intense physical activity per day.
5. No electronic screens within one to two hours before bed.
Ensure there are no TVs, video games, computers or cell phones in the bedroom.
6. Avoid large meals prior to bed; small snacks are OK.
7. Dark, comfortable bedroom
Ensure bedrooms are dark and comfortable environments that are only used for sleep. Beds/cribs should never be used for play or punishment.
8. Put your children to bed when they’re drowsy but still awake
This even includes the little ones. Feeding a baby to sleep after the age of six months can delay their opportunities to learn to self soothe – an important coping skill used to deal with future challenges and problem solving.
9. No caffeine after noon
10. Limit sugary foods
10 signs that your child may have a sleep problem
About 20 to 30 per cent of children have sleep problems, the signs for which include:
- excessive daytime sleepiness
- meltdowns later in the day
- difficulty in school
- frequent irritability or clumsiness
- loud snoring or paused breathing at night
- not achieving the recommended sleep needs
- difficulty falling or staying asleep
- taking more than 20 minutes to settle into sleep at night
- waking more than two times per night
- staying awake for longer than 20 minutes during the night
Remember that as summer comes to an end, sleep times should be pulled back. Start a few weeks before school begins and reset their bedtime by 15 minutes every few nights until they are back on schedule and are able to get the required amount of sleep for their age.
If you are concerned about your child’s sleep habits and would like further information or medical advice, please contact your Copeman Kids team. If your child is not enrolled in Copeman Kids, please contact us for more information.