We all know that a good night’s sleep makes the world seem like a much nicer place. The birds sound better and the flowers look brighter. Try telling that to a toddler though, right!?!
One of the most difficult parts of parenting must be finding a balance between the stress that goes hand in hand with getting a little one (and their not-so-little siblings, too) into bed and the peace that comes with the knowledge that your child is well rested. Sometimes it really just seems easier to say ‘oh well, another hour up won’t hurt…’ Hmmm…. I know this was the case in our home last night! 13-year-old Kayla just didn’t want to go to bed… That got me thinking… Why is sleep so important anyway? Am I robbing my child of super-model good looks by not ensuring she gets sufficient ‘beauty sleep’? Is there anything I can do to make bedtime go more smoothly?
Turns out, there’s a lot of information regarding sleep out there! The benefits of sleep… Tips for a good night’s sleep… Old wive’s tales about sleep… The list goes on and on…
So, i thought i’d bring it all together in one place – Just some simple information on the benefits of sleep in relation to your child: what happens when a child doesn’t get enough sleep, the best tips for helping your child get a decent night’s sleep, and even a funny fact or two… I hope you find the information you’re looking for!
The benefits of sleep
There are three main benefits of getting a good night’s sleep. These are
- healthy brain function
- better emotional well-being
- increased physical health
Let’s take a quick look at each…
Healthy brain function – Studies show that a good night’s sleep improves a child’s ability to learn. Sleep also enhances problem-solving skills. This is because a child’s ability to pay attention, make decisions, and be creative is dependant on the brain being well rested.
Better emotional well-being – Being well rested is very important for keeping a child’s stress levels down.By ensuring that your child gets enough quality sleep, their bodies are able to regulate the levels of serotonin (the day-time happy hormone) and melatonin(the night-time happy hormone)in the brain, resulting in a happier, calmer child.
Increased physical health – Sleep is involved in the healing and repair of both the heart and blood vessels, and also supports healthy growth and development. Deep sleep triggers the body to release the hormones that promote normal growth in children and teens, and boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues.Your child’s immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy, defending his or her body against foreign or harmful substances.
What happens if a child doesn’t get enough sleep?
Studies show that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If your child is not getting enough quality sleep, you may find that they have trouble solving problems, controlling their emotions and behavior, and coping with change. In older children (teens and young adults, as well as adults) sleep deficiency has even been linked to depression and suicide.Children and teens who are sleep deficient may also have problems getting along with others and can find it more difficult to make friends. This may be because of hormone fluctuations caused by lack of sleep, which can result in unusual emotional behavior. Children may feel angry and impulsive, have mood swings, feel sad or depressed, or lack motivation. With regards to academic performance, a child that doesn’t get enough quality sleep may have problems paying attention, and they may get lower grades and feel even more stressed as a result.
All very serious sounding, isn’t it? So what can we do to make sure that are little ones are well rested, and that they get into healthy sleep routines?
Top tips for creating good sleep habits in children
- Create a soothing atmosphere in your child’s bedroom – a night light or special bedtime teddy can make all the difference, helping your little one feel safe and secure.
- Develop a bedtime routine and stick to it – your child’s body becomes used to a certain amount of sleep. When the routine is changed, your little one just ‘doesn’t feel right’.
- Plan for and address any issues that might arise during the night before you tuck your little one in – a bottle or a glass of water next to the bed, a trip to the loo… doing the same things nightly contributes to creating a routine and prevents unnecessary disruptions during the night.
- Make bedtime a positive experience – be it storytime or a few minutes alone with Mom or Dad’s full attention, think of including something that your child will look forward to in their bedtime routine.
- Praise your child for staying in their own bed – positive reinforcement! We all know this works with kids!
- Stay strong and remain constant – I know it’s tough, but try to stick to routine. Have rules for bedtime and bedtime behavior. Your little one will realize soon enough that that’s just the way things are.
Well, I hope you found this article interesting. Maybe tonight you can try a few of the tricks above!