How to Help Your Kids Avoid the Scary Effects of Sleep Deprivation
How to Help Your Kids Avoid the Scary Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Although we may not think of our children as the future of our planet when they’re arguing with their siblings or making a mess out of the living room, they are indeed the world leaders of the years to come.
It’s important that we help kids and teens to recognize the gravity of the impact that they will have in their home countries and the entire world. And how to stay healthy and happy throughout their lives.
That’s where International Youth Day comes into play! On August 12th, the world recognizes and celebrates the contribution of our children to future conflict resolution and sustainable peace amongst tomorrow’s world leaders.
And encouraging leadership skills in our youth starts at home, by helping them to be as forward-thinking and progressive as they can be, in an effort to assist them in overcoming the challenges that their childhood and teenage years are sure to bring.
How Much Sleep Does Your Child Really Need?
By now, you know how important sleep is for adults, when it comes to their health, happiness, and ability to perform at their best – but did you know that it’s even more important for children?
Kids need lots more sleep to help support the rapid growth of their mental and physical development and missing out on high-quality rest can have a seriously negative impact on them quickly. If your child loses out on as little as 30 or 60 minutes of sleep per night, their ability to grow effectively is threatened.
But how do you know if your kiddo is not getting enough sleep?
Identifying the sleep deprived among children and teens can be difficult, since they don’t typically slow down and act drowsy like we do. Kids that are missing out on sleep actually can look like they are suffering from symptoms of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), appearing extra hyper, resisting bedtime, and acting out in other ways when overtired.
If your child’s hyperactivity and refusal to sleep at night is becoming a problem, you should consult with their pediatrician ASAP, as there could be an underlying medical issue at play, and their doctor may want to refer them to a specialist for further testing and available treatment options.
In most cases, children that are sleep deprived can be helped with simple environmental and scheduling tweaks at bedtime, and they don’t need any medical assistance. Research has shown that an earlier bedtime, a consistently soothing wind-down ritual, and reduced screen time can be super helpful.
If you’re curious to know how much time your children need to be spending asleep, check out this list, based on age…
Newborns (0-3 months): 14 to 17 hours
Infants (4-11 months): 12 to 15 hours
Toddlers (1-2 years): 11 to 14 hours
Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10 to 13 hours
School-Aged Children (6-13 years): 9 to 11 hours
Teenagers (14-17 years): 8 to 10 hours
While this list of recommended sleep times for children is helpful, be sure to keep in mind that this info is only a guideline, and the individual needs of your kids might require some changes in how much sleep they need to feel fully rested.
Why Teens Need the Most Sleep of All
Although getting the recommended amount of sleep each night is important for all of us, one group of your planet’s youth need it even more than most. We’re talking about teenagers and for that age group, sleep is essential fuel for the body and brain, even more so than you might realize.
In fact, it’s been proven that sleep is even more important than food when it comes to our health and overall well-being, and when it comes to those of us aged 13 to 19, sleep is critical to being able to learn, mature, and grow in every possible way.
Teenaged brains are still developing into the minds that your kids will have their entire adult lives, and sleep is an essential part in making sure that development is as healthy as possible. In the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, complex thoughts, regulation of emotions, and the ability to make effective decisions is happening constantly – and it’s also the part of the brain that is most sensitive to sleep deprivation.
When your teenager isn’t getting enough sleep, there can be some pretty serious emotional, social, behavioral, and intellectual repercussions. Teens that aren’t getting enough sleep have been known to exhibit the following frightening symptoms…
- Difficulty learning and lower grades
- Poor judgment and decision making
- More likely to engage in risky behaviors
- Increased levels of aggression and violence
- Withdrawing socially at school and home
- Inability to control emotions
- More likely to be irritable, anxious, and depressed
Those are some pretty scary issues to think about dealing with! But luckily, there are some things that you can do to help your teenager get enough sleep and avoid them falling victim to any of the negative effects of sleep deprivation.
Prioritize Sleep: Let your teens know that while getting good grades is important, their health and well-being is even higher up on the importance scale. Discourage late-night cram sessions by helping your teen to carve out regular study and homework times.
Teach the Importance of Sleep: Show your teens that sleep should be as important to them as Facetiming with their friends by taking the time to educate them about sleep and what it does to their minds and bodies. Challenge them to run an internet search on teens and sleep, so they can see the research for themselves, and set aside time to discuss their findings with them, as well as what they think that means when it comes to what’s best for their own health and happiness.
Now that we’ve talked about the age group that is at the most risk for suffering from the scary effects of sleep deprivation, let’s take a look at how we can help children of every age get the sleep that they need to become the amazing leaders of tomorrow by getting a healthy start today.
How to Help Your Kids (and Our Future Leaders) Get Better Sleep
Helping your kiddos get high-quality sleep each and every night so they can grow is one of the most important jobs for any parent. But how do you help them?
Check out these 9 tips for helping kids get better sleep…
1. Make sure they have active days
Kids of all ages need to get plenty of physical exercise during their days if you want them to be able to wind down quicker during their nights. Just be sure that it comes to an end at least 3 hours before bedtime or your kiddos might be too stimulated to sleep.
2. Avoid big meals and stimulants
Make sure that all big meals are eaten at least 2 hours before your young ones turn in for the night and keep snacks healthy and light. And be sure to avoid all stimulants, such as soft drinks and chocolate, at least 3 hours before bedtime.
3. Keep bedtimes individual
Just like the rest of us, kids are individuals, and they will decide for themselves over the years if they are an early riser or a night owl. Help them get the best rest for their personal needs by making sure that they can conform to their bodies’ natural sleep-wake cycles, while also spending enough time in bed each night, by creating individual bedtimes, instead of having every child in the household turning in at the same time.
4. Create a custom wake-up time
Likewise, you can help your child to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to meet the day by observing how many hours they need in bed to feel their best, and then doing the math to discover what the best time to get them out of bed might be – and be sure to keep that wakeup time consistent, even during school breaks and the summer, if you want to avoid your kiddos suffering jet lag symptoms from oversleeping. Yikes!
5. Ditch all devices before bed
More and more research is showing that the blue light emanating from TV or computer screens can be highly harmful to our sleep, due to the interference it creates in the production of melatonin, know as the sleep hormone. When melatonin levels are peaked, it creates a sleepy feeling, and tells us that it’s time for bed. But when those levels are low, it can keep us up hours past when we should be sleeping.
Children are especially susceptible to issues with melatonin production, and sleep experts and doctors recommend taking away anything with a screen at least 2 hours before bedtime, if not removing them from the bedroom completely, in order to keep that space all about sleep and rejuvenation.
6. Keep things cool
Your child’s natural sleep cycle and ability to produce melatonin is also dependent upon temperature. Doctors recommend that bedrooms should be kept at around 68 degrees Fahrenheit to help your child get to sleep easier and stay asleep longer. You might also want to remove heavy bedding and tuck your kiddos into bed each night with PJs that are made from a light, cooling material like cotton.
7. Reduce stress with soothing routines
Melatonin isn’t the only hormone that plays a role in sleep. There is also one called cortisol (known as the “stress hormone”) that can actually have the opposite effect on your child’s sleep cycle. If cortisol levels are too high, your kiddo won’t be able to shut down their mind and drift off to sleep. But how do you help that from happening?
Creating a soothing bedtime routine is one of the most effective ways to ensure that cortisol levels are kept low. You should promote calming, soothing activities about 30 minutes before bedtime. Some ideas for soothing children before bed include:
- Taking a warm bath
- Reading them a story
- Putting on PJs together
- Goodnight hugs and kisses
You can individualize the activities to fit your child’s needs, of course, and just keep in mind that it’s not so much what you do with your child, but making sure that the routine stays calming and consistent that is key.
8. Provide protection from fears
Some children can become fearful at bedtime, which is completely normal amongst younger kids, and should be addressed and not dismissed. Try giving them reassurances that all is well during the time you are tucking them in or even give them a small flashlight to keep next to the bed, in case they hear a noise during the night.
9. Keep an eye open for sleep disorders
If you have tried everything that you can think of to help your child get to sleep (and stay that way!) but nothing seems to be working, you might want to consider talking to their pediatrician about your concerns. There are sleep disorders that are specific to children and they can also be affected by the same sleeping issues that we have to deal with as adults. It never hurts to err on the side of caution and set up an appointment with your child’s doctor about their night terrors, inability to stay asleep, bedwetting, or any other concerns that you might be having.