Getting back to school also means getting back into a regular bedtime routine for kids. Good sleep hygiene and a proper bedtime are imperative for the health and development of your child. Sleep has been the focus of many pediatric studies, all revealing that poor sleep hygiene can lead to dangerous consequences.
Today, I’m discussing the dangers of sleep deprivation for your child and what important steps you should take to ensure your child gets a good night’s sleep.
Dangers of Poor Sleep in Kids
1. Decreased Immunity
Sleep is extremely important to maintaining good health and strong immunity. When our children are run down and tired, they become more vulnerable to becoming sick.
While we sleep, our bodies recharge and become stronger.
As we head into a new school year, children become exposed to new germs. This exposure leads to a surge of illness during the early months of school. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends a certain number of hours of sleep each night for different age groups.
- Infants 4 months to 12 months should sleep 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
- Ages 1 to 2 years should sleep 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
- Children 3 to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
- 6- to 12-year-olds should sleep 9 to 12 hours per 24 hours
- Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours per 24 hours
2. Decreased Performance at School
A study published in Pediatrics found that children with irregular bedtimes had more behavioral difficulties. According to Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, not only does poor sleep lead to worse behavior, a child with behavior challenges may have a difficult time sleeping.
In addition to the cycle of behavioral challenges and lack of sleep, Insufficient sleep in children can also lead to weight issues, hypertension, diabetes, depression and decreased performance at school.
The bottom line is that consistent sleep routines lead to positive outcomes such as improved attention, better behavior, improved emotional regulation, and overall good health.
3. Decreased Ability to Cope with Stress
Lack of sleep does not only affect a child’s mood but also affects their concentration and their ability to cope with stress. Whether your child is a toddler or school aged, sleep deprivation can lead to your child being overly emotional, experiencing frequent temper tantrums, and showing difficulty controlling impulses.
Tips to Help Your Child Fall Asleep Easier
1. Decrease Screen Time
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all screens be turned off 30 minutes to 1-2 hours before bedtime.
TVs are not the only issues. Small screens (like smart phones and tablets) are actually even more disruptive to sleep than TV. The light from these devices can impede natural hormones that help us fall asleep. Interruptions from these devices can also break apart our sleep.
Never sleep with your cell phone, and do not let your children either.
2. Follow Your Child’s Cues
Did you know that kids under the age of 12, or before puberty, get tired naturally around 8pm, according to Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson of Seattle Mama Doc?
Around 8pm there is a natural rise in a child’s melatonin level.
Dr. Swanson recommends parents seize the opportunity to transition kids to bed around that time. Make sure to look for cues like yawning, rubbing eyes, and moodiness. Try and set bedtime within 30 minutes of these drowsiness cues for an easier transition to bed.
3. Bedtime Routine for Kids
Establishing a bedtime routine is imperative to creating good sleep hygiene. It is important that your child starts to wind down and allow their mind to get ready for sleep. Having the same routine every night prepares your child for bedtime.
Many parents don’t realize that a late bedtime can actually result in difficulty falling asleep and resistance to the bedtime routine. For most children, an appropriate bedtime is between 7:30pm and 8pm.
Final Thoughts on Bedtime for Kids
Sometimes kids have trouble falling asleep even when conditions all seem to be right. If you notice your child’s sleep struggles happening more regularly, keeping a sleep diary can help you uncover the causes of your child’s sleep problems. A sleep diary will be especially helpful if you plan to talk to your child’s doctor about your concerns.
Important Reminder: Never give your child an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine to make them sleepy. Always read the label before giving your child any OTC medicine. OTC cold and flu medicines may contain diphenhydramine, which can cause drowsiness. It is important to only treat your child with the right OTC medicine for the symptoms they are presenting, not to aid in sleep. Please consult a physician before giving your child an OTC medicine.