Medical personnel from the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital stress the importance of good sleep hygiene for children. In fact, according to Johns Hopkins, infants should sleep 12-16 hours per night while older children should sleep at least nine.
However, with all of the distractions in your child’s life, it isn’t always easy to prioritize sound sleep.
No sleep is no fun
Dr. Sujay Kansagra, director of Duke University’s pediatric neurology sleep medicine program, compared a sleep-deprived child’s ability to reason to that of an alcohol-impaired adult. He explained that pediatric sleep deprivation adversely affects the performance of the brain’s frontal lobe.
Children experiencing poor sleep hygiene may display the following symptoms:
- Inability to concentrate.
- Periods of misbehavior.
- Short attention span.
- Hyperactive behavior, sometimes to the point of ADHD diagnosis.
- Inability to reason.
The Journal of Psychology and Psychiatry further emphasizes a correlation between a child’s sleep patterns and their behavior and ability to perform at school. Specifically, the study concluded that a lack of sleep can lead to poor performance socially, emotionally and mentally.
To combat these issues, consider the following tips to promote good sleep habits in your children.
Let the sun shine in
Countless studies have shown throughout the years that there is no such thing as “making sleep up.” Children who want to stay awake past their bedtime sometimes have difficulty understanding that sleeping in later on the weekend won’t compensate for harmful sleep habits during the week.
Children of all ages can benefit from a regular sleep schedule that they adhere to even on the weekends. To encourage a routine, consider opening the curtains in your child’s bedroom so that they can sync with the natural light cycle. The regular morning sunlight may help your child wake up more naturally and at a more consistent time as opposed to being jolted awake by an alarm clock in a dark room.
Take a hike!
Your child’s life is busy. School, homework, piano lessons and chatting with friends can leave little time to develop the daytime habits that could help them gain more restful sleep.
Taking just a moderate 10-minute walk with your child every day could help them. Both you and your child can benefit from this quiet, low-impact exercise, and it will give both of you a chance to disconnect from the world and reconnect with one another.
Set the mood
You can also encourage good sleep hygiene by limiting your child’s interactions with bright lights, TVs and other electronics before bed.
Bright lights and increased activity, especially from distractions like video games, stimulate the brain, delaying the natural release of melatonin. This hormone helps you to fall asleep, and postponing its release can result in delayed sleep, especially REM sleep (the deep sleep that allows the body to recuperate).
Consider encouraging your child to relax before going to bed. Even simple breathing exercises can help your child let go of the day. Help them visualize drawing in peace and quiet with each inhale, and then slowly and deliberating letting go of the day’s stresses with each exhale.
Generally, parents think of small children when establishing a bedtime routine. However, it is just as important that your older children do the same.
Towards the end of the evening, consider focusing your child’s attention on quiet activities such as homework and preparing for the next day of school. When it draws closer to your child’s bedtime, try encouraging that all cellphones and other electronics go dark for the night. Stimulants such as these can make it difficult for a child of any age to fall asleep peacefully. Adopting an increasingly mellow routine as the day draws to an end may make it easier for your children to wind down.
Good sleep is good for you
Pediatric sleep studies have shown that children who receive the proper amount of quality sleep are healthier. Well-rested children tend to:
- Be less obese than their sleep-deprived counterparts.
- Have less difficulty learning.
- Have increased heart health.
- Have a strong immune system.
Any other advice?
Oftentimes, encouraging good habits can promote good sleep hygiene. Other times though, your child may be experiencing stressors of which you are unaware. To find the best solution, Therapeutic Options, LLC focuses on each child both as an individual and as part of the family unit.
With a wide range of counseling services, Therapeutic Options can hone in on your child’s behavioral patterns and help both your child and your family establish good sleep hygiene. Contact us today to learn more.