Every living thing sleeps! Sleep plays a very important role in you staying healthy all your life. In fact, sleep has been called the third pillar of health, with the other two pillars being nutrition and exercise. Getting good quality sleep is necessary for good physical as well as mental health in both children and adults.
Let’s now understand why it is important for young children to rest and sleep. Here are eight reasons why.
- Helps in processing information – when your child is resting and sleeping, the brain is actively working. Research indicates that the brain processes complex information, stores old memories and creates new ones. Therefore a good night’s sleep is vital for this processing to take place.
- Helps your child stay healthy – when one sleeps, the brain releases infection-fighting proteins called Cytokines. The less one sleeps, the lesser the Cytokines produced. A good night’s rest will boost your child’s immune system and keep them healthy and safe.
- Helps your child grow – research has also found that the growth hormone is secreted when one is asleep. Researchers who studied children with lesser levels of the growth hormone found that they did not sleep as well as kids with normal secretion of the hormone. Therefore good sleep and rest is vital for a child’s adequate growth.
- Helps fight obesity, and keeps the heart healthy – Good sleep is required to maintain a healthy balance of hormones that make you feel hungry or full. When your child does not get enough sleep, the hormone that makes one hungry goes up and the hormone that makes you feel full goes down. Thus your child will feel hungrier. Similarly, sleep is required for the healthy growth and development of your child’s heart. Hormones that increase muscle mass and repairs cells are released during sleep.
- Helps reduce the risk of injury – Children who do not get enough sleep may not be alert. On the contrary, they may land up being more clumsy or irritable due to lack of sleep. This, in turn, may make them more prone to injuries. A study of some school children found that children who slept less than nine hours a day were more prone to injuries than kids who slept well.
- Helps increase your child’s attention span – As with an adult, a child will also feel refreshed and ready to take on the day after a good night’s rest. Getting enough good quality sleep at the right time helps your child function properly throughout the day. Children with less sleep tend to be less productive at school. They will also take longer to finish their work and may make more mistakes. According to research, even an extra 27 minutes of sleep at night makes it easier for a child to manage their moods and impulses.
- Helps in the learning process – A rested brain learns more easily. There are two ways in which good sleep helps a child. When a child has slept well, they are awake and alert and hence can concentrate better. Secondly, when one sleeps, the brain is consolidating memories and long-term memories are being built. A neuroscientist at the University of Massachusetts conducted a study on a group of pre-schoolers. They were taught to play a ‘Memory’ game after which they were asked to take a small nap. They followed this pattern for a week. However, they were not allowed to sleep the following week. Neuroscientist found that when the children stayed awake, they forgot around 15% of what they learned. But when they slept, they were able to recollect everything.
It is pretty obvious that a good night’s rest has many benefits. Therefore ensure that your child gets adequate sleep. Here are some tips that you can use ensure that your child gets adequate good quality sleep.
- Set a sleep time routine and stick to it. Ensure that your child goes to sleep at the same time every time. This will ensure that they get into a habit of falling asleep at a regular time. You can set a series of tasks as routine for going to sleep. For example:
- Brush teeth
- Put on night clothes
- Tuck into bed
- Read a bedtime story
Ensure that your child gets at least 9 hours of sleep.
- Create an ideal sleeping environment. Ensure that the child’s room/bed promotes sleeping. It’s best to keep the room dark, quiet and comfortable. You could think of placing a nightlight if your child is afraid of the dark.
- Avoid meals or junk food before bedtime. Make sure that your child does not have any heavy food or unhealthy snacks just before he or she goes to sleep. Ideally, your child should eat 3 hours before sleeping. If they are hungry before sleeping, give them a fruit or a glass of warm milk.
- Avoid watching the television close to their sleep time. Watching TV or playing on the mobile or tablet keeps the brain active. So it’s better to turn off any electronic items a little while before they go to sleep. Read them a book or tell them a story instead.
- Keep a watch on how your child sleeps. Do check how your child is sleeping. Look out for any deviation in sleeping behavior as well as how they are functioning during the day. This will help you check if your child is getting adequate sleep and plan accordingly.
The benefits of a good sleep are endless. A good night’s rest contributes to a child’s physical and mental growth, aids in learning and retention and keeps them active and cheerful.
Kids need sleep to keep them healthy and happy, so make sure that your child is getting adequate rest and sleep. Good luck.