Kids and Sleep… What You Need to Know!
My kids hate sleep. I say this to myself every night as I
patiently go through the eternal bedtime routine. WHY? Why don’t they understand that in 25 years they will want nothing more than a nap? Or that all they can hope for is maybe once a year, they will get a single, glorious, beautiful, uninterrupted night of sleep?! They can’t imagine that someday they will regret every nap they didn’t take. I can imagine it. I live with those regrets every day.
Some nights I want to give up on the whole battle, toss them the remote and say, ‘Knock yourselves out kids, just don’t order anything from the infomercials at 3 AM!’ But I don’t. (Well, I haven’t yet anyway…) So why do I continue to insist my kiddos go to bed at a reasonable hour?
I apparently enjoy torturing myself. No, seriously, though, it’s because sleep is hugely important in a child’s development, and we have an epidemic of children who aren’t getting nearly enough.
What Are The Benefits of Sleep?
Sleep can be tied to behavior, cognitive and emotional development, and nearly every body system.
- Lack of appropriate sleep can contribute to or exacerbate type 2 diabetes and obesity. The hormones that regulate hunger are affected by sleep. Ghrelin is the hormone that increases hunger. Sleep deprivation increases the body’s production of ghrelin, therefore making you hungry.
- Lack of sleep can result in behavioral problems like inattention, hyperactivity, impulse control issues, impatience and aggression. (Anyone with a toddler who has missed a nap knows these symptoms well!)
- Cognitive factors such as language development, memory, decision making, and critical thinking are adversely affected with insufficient sleep.
- Sleep problems such as night terrors, sleepwalking, and bedwetting are common with sleep deprivation as well. My oldest child had several episodes of sleepwalking, and every time it happened, she was overly tired. It’s alarming to be jolted awake by an avalanche of pots and pans falling out of a cabinet because your child, in a sleepwalking haze, thinks she is in the bathroom!
- Lack of sleep can also contribute to an increase in illnesses, as the immune system doesn’t have the chance to be restored during the deep sleep cycles.
The list truly goes on and on. Some researches have (controversially) gone as far as to say that the effects of sleep deprivation can affect a child’s brain for the rest of his or her life. What?! Now before we start dosing our kids with melatonin, how much sleep should a child get?
How Much Sleep Is Necessary?
Each child is different of course, but there are recommended amounts of sleep a child should optimally get on a regular basis. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, here are the recommendations:
- Children 1 to 2 years old should sleep 11 to 14 hours, including naps
- Children 3 to 5 years old should sleep 10 to 13 hours, including naps
- Children 6 to 12 years old should sleep 9 to 12 hours
What Can We Do About It?
Now that we are all terrified about the effects of sleep deprivation, and we’ve learned how much sleep to aim for… what do we do about it? We make one more list. (OK, I will make a list. I love lists. But trust me, they’re helpful. Then we will do the things on the list.)
- Create a consistent bedtime routine. Figure out what time your child has to get up in the morning, and work backwards from there to set the bedtime.
- Commit to turning off the TV, putting the screens away, and removing them from the bedroom (remove the temptation!) at an appropriate time.
- Prep for the morning. Whatever that means to you and your family: make the lunches, pick out the outfits, program the coffee maker. Having a prepped morning will allow your child a few extra minutes of needed sleep.
- Prioritize active play during the day. We’ve all had days with bad weather, and the children who have been cooped up all day suddenly turn into hyperactive gremlins! Encouraging active play, whether inside or outside will help them burn off some energy and make their bodies tired and ready for sleep.
- Make the bedroom a sleep sanctuary. OK, my children’s bedroom is more like a Toys R’ Us going-out-of-business sale BUT, their beds, specifically, are cozy. They have heaps of blankets, stacks of books nearby, and their favorite loveys. When they do crawl into bed, they are enveloped in their fluffy little sleeping nests, ready to wind down and drift off.
Lastly, cut yourself some slack. These guidelines are just that, guidelines! There will certainly be days when you rush out of work, take your kid to soccer, take your other kid to gymnastics, eat Chik-Fil-A in the car, do homework, and everyone collapses into bed at 11:00. Just remember, you’re doing a great job. Everyone can go to bed early tomorrow.
OK, what did you think about this post? Are your children getting the recommended amounts of sleep? We’d love to hear from you on our social media channels. Don’t forget to pop over to @island_prep or @island_prep_elementary and leave us a comment!
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