Back to School: The Importance of Quality Sleep

Have you ever gotten your child up in the morning, to suddenly notice they look bigger? Taller?  It?s hard to fathom such a big change overnight.  Growth hormone is mainly secreted during deep sleep, which children can spend up to 50% of their time in.  Consequently, children who are chronically sleep deprived and are not spending adequate time in deep sleep, will have lower levels of growth hormone and may have their growth stunted.

Sleep promotes learning

Although your baby or preschooler may look peaceful when sleeping, their brain is still quite active all night.  Education experts are finding that adequate nighttime sleep and naps, have a certain ?magic? about them, that promotes development and learning.  We know that children who are rested have a better attention span, are healthier, and are less impulsive, giving them the best chance to learn and retain what they are being taught.

Sleep promotes growth

The sleep needs of school age children are often overlooked, partly because of the lack of emphasis on healthy sleep in our culture.  However, sleep is more important than most parents or educators realize and a lack of sleep, can lead to an array of devastating consequences.

It?s that time of year again, where our children are off to school, embarking on another exciting year of learning.  Just as our kids are growing in stature, their brains are developing too, as they learn about the world around them and expand their knowledge and vocabulary. 

Sleep increases attention span

Children who consistently sleep fewer than ten hours a night, before age 3 are three times more likely to have hyperactivity and impulsivity problems by age (  Dr. Judith Owens, M.D., director of sleep medicine at Children?s National Medical Center explains, ?the symptoms of sleep deprivation and ADHD, including impulsivity and distractibility, mirror each other almost exactly.? 

Tired children are impulsive, have poor concentration, and can feel distracted in school.  It?s hard to say how many children have been diagnosed with ADHD, who may actually just be suffering from a lack of proper sleep.  If a parent has concerns with their children?s attention span, it would be in their best interest to evaluate their sleep first.

Back to School Sleep Tips

Adequate sleep is vital for your child?s health and well-being.  If you?re struggling to set a routine or increase the amount of sleep your child is getting, here are some changes you can make tonight. 

  1. Keep a regular bedtime ? you should pick an appropriate bedtime for your child, making sure they are getting at least 10 hours of sleep a night.  For many preschool and school age children, bedtime is at 8:00 pm.  Keep your child?s bedtime the same on weekdays and weekends.  A noticeable schedule and routine will help our body?s circadian rhythm remain balanced.
  2. Limit screen time ? electronics should be turned off at least one hour before bed.  This includes video games, computer, tv, tablets, and cellphones.  These devices not only can cause anxiety and stimulation before bedtime, but screens emit blue light, which is a melatonin suppressor, making falling to sleep much more challenging for your child.
  3. Pick a relaxing bedtime routine ? your child is exposed to stimulation all day and can find comfort in a relaxing, quiet bedtime routine. For older children this may include some independent time reading books or listening to music. Keep your routine calm, quiet, and screen free. If your child is struggling with nighttime fears or anxiety, try some relaxation exercises and deep breathing.
  4. Good nutrition and exercise ? children that participate in outdoor activities are not only happier and healthier, but they tend to sleep better.  A balanced diet with healthy protein, fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables, can aid in healthy sleep and better wellness overall.         

As your child enters a new school year, take time to evaluate their sleep.  Quality sleep is the center of learning, development, and growth.  Well rested children learn better, retain information better, and maintain better health.  As parents and educators, the importance of sleep should not be overlooked in our children and students. 

Thinking of hiring a sleep consultant? Sleep Solutions for Children is a pediatric sleep consultant practice that is based out of Fort Collins, Colorado. Founder and lead sleep consultant, Becky Remley, works virtually with clients all over the world and offers custom sleep packages to meet the needs of every family.

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