Sleep Care

Healthy Sleep = Healthy Child

If you are like most parents, you know when your children need sleep. Without it, your kids are probably cranky and disagreeable. And if you have young children, those naps and early bedtimes give you much needed downtime. But, children need sleep for a number of other reasons too.


Not only does good night’s sleep allow kids to rest, but it also helps them develop physically, socially, and psychologically. In fact, most scientists agree that there is so much going on at a cellular level that this is the reason behind a newborn sleeping more than he or she is awake.

Moreover, babies don’t have an established circadian rhythm until they are about six months old. Once they reach this milestone, babies usually have a rhythm that matches closely with the 24-hour day. This fact explains why newborns have such irregular sleep schedules. Still, sleep at this age is dominant as they develop and grow. But by nine months of age, 70 to 80 percent of babies will sleep through the night. Additionally, naps typically become fewer as they reach their first birthday. And by the age of two, most children have spent more time asleep than awake. In fact, a healthy child will spend 40 percent of his or her childhood sleeping.

So what’s going on during sleep? Scientists believe that the brain sorts and stores information from the day during sleep. And many believe that a child’s brain replaces chemicals and solves problems while they sleep. So all those cool educational things you are doing with your children are becoming a part of their brain while they’re sleeping.

Additionally, as kids get older, healthy sleep also helps children perform their best in school and in extracurricular activities. Meanwhile, the lack of sleep can impact their ability to concentrate and may even affect their motor skills making them clumsier or accident prone. Finally, failing to get adequate sleep may impact your child’s growth and their immune system. A child’s body grows and repairs itself during sleep.

Unfortunately, most children between the ages of 5 and 12 only get about 9.5 hours of sleep each night while experts believe they need as much as 10 or 11 hours of sleep. Therefore, it is important to remember that sleep plays a huge role in this development and will continue to do so as they get older and learn new things.

For most kids, sleeping comes naturally. But if your child is struggling to go to sleep each night, here are some ideas that may help:

  • Try to put your child in bed at the same time each night, even on weekends. By doing this, you are helping their body establish a routine for sleep.
  • Establish a calming bedtime routine like reading, a warm bath or snuggling together before they sleep.
  • Limit food with caffeine, especially before bed. These include sodas, iced tea and chocolate.
  • Remove the television from your child’s room if they have one. Research shows that kids who have one in their rooms sleep less.
  • Monitor what television programs they are watching near bedtime, as well as what video games they are playing. Scary or intense programs can make it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Encourage your child to use their bed for sleeping. Doing homework, playing on the computer or playing handheld games while in bed may inadvertently train your child’s brain to associate the bed with something other than sleeping.
  • Limit exercise before bed and try to plan activities for earlier in the day or evening so that their body has had time to unwind before bedtime.
  • Learn to recognize sleep issues like difficulty falling asleep, trouble breathing, snoring, and nighttime awakenings. If any of these issues are present in your kids, you may want to talk to their doctor to determine the cause.

Finally, remember that kids need sleep to be healthy. So no matter how much fun you’re having, don’t make a habit of missing bedtime in lieu of fun. By making sleep a family priority, you are teaching children early on that sleep is as vital to good health as a healthy diet and exercise. And, if your kids can enter their preteen and teenager years well-rested, you are giving them an advantage for the new challenges they will face.

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