Sleep is important. Ask any sleep deprived adult and they will tell you that it is harder to function throughout the day when they haven’t gotten enough sleep. Although it is important for adults to get enough sleep, it is even more important for children to get an adequate amount of quality sleep.
Despite the best of intentions from their parents, children may be getting less and less sleep without their parents even realizing that it’s happening. Schedules get busier and busier, especially as children get older. And because many parents work long hours or because of children’s after-school activities, naps are missed, bedtimes get pushed back, or mornings start earlier.
Adequate sleep for children is just as important as them getting enough to eat or drink. Children need sleep to develop and function properly. A study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2012 found that children who didn’t get enough sleep had less control over their emotions and had a harder time focusing in school. The study found that the children who slept less had worse behavior scores and they were more frustrated and cranky and had more trouble paying attention. If it is difficult for children to pay attention and they are more easily frustrated, it is going to be difficult for children to learn and do well in school.
In his book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Dr. Marc Weissbluth states, “Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm. Every night and at every nap, sleep recharges the brains battery. Sleeping well increases brainpower just as weight lifting builds stronger muscles, because sleeping well increases your attention span and allows you to be physically relaxed and mentally alert at the same time.”
Sleep deprivation can cause fatigue in children even if the child is not involved in any activities; just being awake for too long can be over-stimulating. Not enough sleep can also make children more impulsive, hyperactive, or lazy.
Although the amount of sleep a child gets matters, the quality of that sleep is also important. Children must get a sufficient amount of sleep that allows them to grow, develop, and function properly. How much that is varies by age. Quality sleep is uninterrupted sleep that allows the child to move through all the different stages of sleep
- Teach your child about healthy sleep habits and why they are important.
- Continually emphasize the need for a regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
- Make your child’s bedroom conducive to sleep: dark, cool, and quiet.
- Keep TV, computers, phones, and tablets out of the bedroom.
- Avoid caffeine.
The next time you think that less sleep for your child here and there won’t affect them, don’t forget the important role adequate quality sleep plays in the development of your child. A well-rested child will be better behaved, more relaxed, and will have an easier time learning in school.