Sleeping Patterns: Do Your Children Get Enough Healthy Sleep?
As a parent, you may have certain goals that you try to keep your child oriented towards: extracurriculars, general reading, academics, exercise, and so on. While encouraging children to be focused, active and goal-oriented is crucial for their overall development, wellbeing and self-actualisation, there are a few key aspects of your child’s general health that must be monitored and taken care of first, before they can be ready to take on these things. And one the most important of these, unsurprisingly, is sleep.
Why is Sleep Important For Children?
Healthy sleep cycles, in both adults and children, are central to general well being and functioning, because they have a direct impact on mental and emotional states and development, as well as overall physical health.
👉Physical Growth and Development
With especial regard to children, sleep is directly correlated with essential physical development; growth hormones are released primarily during the sleep hours, and thus a healthy sleep pattern is necessary for healthy bodily growth to happen. Sleeping hours are also the time in which a child’s immunity is built up by the body, making good sleep absolutely crucial to preventing illness and creating resilience in growing children.
Sleep patterns also have a significant impact on children’s emotional wellbeing, in that children who are well-rested will tend to have higher emotional capacities than those who are not. This means that they will be more equipped to deal with situations in appropriately mature ways, rather than tending to react with extreme negative emotions, particularly anger, frustration and sullenness.
A good sleep routine ensures that children are not fatigued, and are thus less prone to stress and agitation. They are less likely to be moody, more inclined towards reason, and generally more likely to be happy.
Sleeping is also directly correlated with cognitive development and wellbeing, in both children and adults. All the essential processes of learning and child development, including information retention, long- and short-term memory, language skills, attention span, and a host of other cognitive functions, require consistent and adequate sleep cycles to be carried out efficiently. Ensuring that your child is getting an optimal amount of sleep is thus paramount to their intellectual development, academic success and general competence.
👉Mood, Energy and Motivation
Additionally, getting enough rest is, of course, essential for children to remain sufficiently active and optimally energetic throughout the day. An ideal day for a child in middle or high school would involve the following: 6 to 8 hours of school, home school or alternative forms of learning; 1 to 2 hours of physical activity, including extracurriculars like sports and dance; 2 to 4 hours of studying, homework and so on; and at least 1 hour of leisure time. In order for your child to be able to achieve all of these things in the space of a day, having a consistently healthy sleep pattern, so that they have the required energy levels throughout the day, is very important.
Thus physical, emotional and cognitive development, as well as day-to-day capacity, are all highly dependent on children’s sleep patterns, It is safe to say that your child’s sleeping habits will inform nearly every part of their life, from their academics and social life, to their extracurriculars, home life and overall development.
Understanding Your Child’s Ideal Sleep Cycle
The ideal sleep cycle differs from child to child, depending on age, location, gender and several other lifestyle factors. As a general rule, pre-teens and teenagers require anywhere between 8 to 13 hours of sleep per day, with the amount lessening and stabilising as they grow and reach maturity.
👉Estimating an Ideal Sleep Duration
A good way to get an fairly accurate estimate of your child’s ideal sleep duration, is simply to keep an eye on their natural sleep pattern. For instance, on a set of days when your child does not have to wake up at a specific time, i.e. weekdays and/or vacations, keep track of the time at which they go to bed, and the time at which they wake up (without an alarm or wake-up call). If they consistently sleep for, say, eight and a half hours each night, before waking up naturally, then this is their ideal required sleep duration.
Once you and your child have figured out how much sleep they need to be getting, you should work together to ensure that their daily schedules allow them to get this amount of sleep every day.
How to Facilitate Better Sleep Cycles
👉Limiting Screen Use Just Before Bedtime
If your child has a habit of using their digital devices for extended periods of time just before bed, this may contribute or lead to a disturbed sleep cycle, or difficulty falling asleep. Ideally, for children and adults both, it is recommended not to use screens for at least an hour before sleeping.
👉Implementing a Bedtime Routine
Encouraging your child to formulate and follow a bedtime routine is good practice, as it will help them unwind and fall asleep quickly, at their designated bedtime. It also helps to create a disciplined system of sleep hygiene for your child, which will help them avoid sleep issues going forward.
👉Creating a Comfortable Sleep Atmosphere
Lastly, ensure that your child has a bedroom environment that will promote rest and comfort during their sleeping hours, particularly keeping in mind bedding, lighting and temperature. This will decrease the chances of their being disturbed or uncomfortable when asleep, promoting healthy sleep cycles.
The importance of healthy sleep patterns cannot be undervalued, particularly in growing children. If your child is facing persistent sleep issues, you might want to consider consulting a sleep specialist to rectify them—attempting to give your child a good sleep life is always a fundamental step to ensure their overall health and wellbeing.