When school-aged children do not acquire a healthy bedtime routine, weariness and agitation can greatly affect their academic performance, physical growth and development.
Some children need less sleep than others do, but if your children are having trouble getting up in the morning, chances are they’re not getting enough sleep.
Lack of sleep can be problematic for parents and children. Parents who are tired and frequently frustrated might not be able to focus on the tasks at hand or think logically in the best interest of their children. Becoming short-tempered can cause even more angst within the family unit. While occasional sleep problems are normal, they should not control your life.
The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health published a research study completed at the University College of London, United Kingdom, wherein they examined analytical data on bedtimes and cognitive scores for 11,178 children. Their research found that when children attained a regular bedtime, they performed much better on academic tests than children whose bedtimes were inconsistent.
While disruption of the circadian rhythms causes cognitive developmental difficulties, insufficient sleep and inconsistent bedtimes also affect cognitive development through different mechanisms.
The research study discovered another piece of thought-provoking data that took them by surprise. Whether children went to bed early or late did not affect their cognitive skills just as long as bedtime was consistent. The internal clock in the brain and the body depend on daily consistency.
Researchers noted that inconsistent sleep patterns were associated with lower academic scores, and therefore, arrived at the conclusion that a consistent pattern of sleep behaviour plays a very important role in your child's academic success, health and happiness.
Skipping breakfast or having a television in your child’s bedroom will also influence bedtime and cognitive development.
School-aged children from kindergarten through eighth grade should get about 10 hours of sleep every night and three-to-four-year-old children might need 11 to 13 hours of sleep including daytime naps.
When consistent bedtimes become a part of the nightly routine at a very young age, sleeping patterns become a regular, healthy habit.
A 15-minute routine before bedtime will greatly ease the transition from an alert child to a quiet and serene state.
Researcher studies recommend that bedtimes during weekends and summer months should only stray from normal bedtimes by an hour or less so that your child's internal clock remains in sync with the brain.
Why Sleep is So Important for Your Growing Children
- If children do not receive the appropriate hours of sleep, hormone levels that regulate fullness and hunger will be altered causing children to become overweight or obese.
- Growth hormone is secreted during slow wave sleep.
- Insufficient sleep is associated with a higher incidence of behavioural problems, especially attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Sleep invigorates the brain.
- Disrupted sleep caused by snoring delays development.
- Night terrors and arousals become more intense when a child is sleep deprived.
- The lessons that children learn during the day come together coherently and cohesively during slow wave sleep, enabling mental access in their academic studies.
- Rapid eye movement (REM) is the stage of sleep when children have their most vivid dreams and it is also an important time for the elimination of unessential memories. For instance, if a child is learning how to ride a bicycle and falls off the first ten times but is successful on the eleventh try, the memory of how to stay on the bicycle is retained and the memories of falling off the bicycle will, for the most, be erased.
- Children that suffer from poor sleep caused by sleep apnea will improve their school performance and aptitude once diagnosed and treated.
- When children have good sleeping patterns, parent's sleep also improves. Big surprise!
Does your child struggle with sleep at night?
- Avoid activities and objects that rouse your child's brain activity and make it harder to fall asleep.
- Avoid spending too much time in bed during non-sleeping hours.
- Teach your children to fall asleep on their own - and in their own bed.
- Find ways to keep your children from sleeping in late on the weekends.
The organizations and associations listed below provide dozens of proven and effective ways to help your children get a better night's sleep so that they are more refreshed and alert during the day.
For additional information, Diligencia Investigative Reporting recommends the following articles and websites:
Sleep Foundation – Sleep Strategies for Children
Dennis Rosen MD – Successful Sleep Strategies for Kids
Harvard Health Publishing – Four Ways to Help Your Child Get Enough Sleep
Stanford Children’s Health – How to Help Your Kids Get a Good Night’s Sleep
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Is it possible to use music until my child is sleeping?