I have been thinking a lot lately about sleep. Perhaps it is because I am tired at this time of year adjusting to new routines, or that I know many children tell me how tired they are. This got me thinking and reading about the importance of sleep. Sleep is as important to our health as exercise and nutrition. Sleep helps our bodies to restore energy, to concentrate and to focus. A constant lack of sleep impacts both our mental and physical development. Lack of sleep in children has been linked to mood swings, behavior problems, hyper-activity, and academic problems. Without sufficient sleep our mental alertness is altered. Although we are still able to go through routines, our ability to focus is impaired and we have more difficulty understanding and remembering new information. For children in school, this can be very frustrating as they may miss important information, experience difficulty recalling information, and find it difficult to take in, think about, and remember new concepts.
So how much sleep should children get? The recommendation is between 9 and 11 hours for children between the ages of 5 and 12 years of age. But it is not just the hours of sleep, it is also necessary to have continuous sleep. Establishing routine bedtime schedules that allow for a half hour relaxing activity before bed helps to induce sleep. It is also important that a child’s bedroom is a quiet place. T.V., computers, and caffeine prior to bed may lead to difficulties with falling asleep, nightmares, or disrupted sleep where the child sleeps for short periods then wakes up and eventually sleeps again. Sleep is a very important part of healthy living. Talk to your child about the importance of sleep in our lives and how it helps our bodies to be able to learn new skills and our brains to be able to think smarter.