By KYLEE RYERS
School-aged children in America get an average of 9.5 hours of sleep, despite the fact that experts recommend 10-11, according to the National Sleep Foundation. This is a matter that merits greater attention, since sleep deprivation has big effects on a child’s social and academic life. Children who do not get enough sleep quantity and/or quality tend to be drowsy or overtired in the daytime, and can struggle to cope with both school and sports/social demands. If you have a child who has fallen out of his or her sleeping routine, these are just a few ways you can get them back on the road to better health and well-being.
Limit Your Child’s Caffeine Intake
In addition to following a strict bedtime routine (i.e. encouraging kids to sleep at the same time every night), you should also watch the foods they consume. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 73% of children consume caffeine every day. This ingredient can cause everything from increased anxiety to nervousness and, of course, sleep issues. While scientists say that caffeine in moderation “is not the worst thing for kids,” they add that too many caffeinated drinks (often found in soda) can cause major behavioral issues and sleep deprivation.
Concentrate As Much On Sleep Quality As On Sleep Quantity
Ensuring your children stay in bed for around 10 hours won’t be sufficient if their sleep quality is poor. Children who wake frequently, toss and turn for hours before getting any shut-eye, and get up to use the bathroom frequently, are not making their way through all the relevant sleep stages. These include the stage of deep sleep – the most restorative of all, and one that is vital for growth and repair of tissue and bones, energy restoration, and strengthening of the immune system. Also key is the REM stage of sleep, during which dreamers are aware they are sleeping, as is the case in lucid dreaming, or become completely ‘lost in the dream’. Scientists believe that dreams are a form of memory processing that aids in the process of learning. To make their way through all relevant stages of sleep, kids should not wake up more than once during the night. If they are doing so, it is important to find out why. Is it because they have consumed stimulating foods or drinks? Are they using technology at night time? Do they have a problem they are worried about?
Teach Children The Art Of Relaxation
Children should be encouraged to learn simple yet highly effect stress-busting methods such as meditation, controlled breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation. There are so many apps available for this purpose, including Calm, Dreamy Kid and Breathe, which contain easy-to-follow breathing and meditation exercises. If you wish to keep tech completely out of the bedroom, guide your child through progressive muscle relaxation. Ask them to tense up their muscles (starting at the toes and working their way up to the face) then relax them. This process helps children understand where tension lies in their body, and teaches them how to get rid of it.
In order to function well at school and in their private and social lives, children need good sleep. Parents should let children know how important sleep is, explaining the difference between quantity and quality. The family can then work together on a game plan – one that tackles issues and stress as much as it does habits like drinking caffeine and using tech in the evening.