The research is clear: sleep is your kid’s superpower. And ensuring they regularly get the right amount is one of the best ways to put them on the path of optimal physical, mental, and emotional health.
For children, sleep is a requisite part of healthy growth and development. Kids who regularly get healthy sleep have stronger immunity, higher daytime energy, increased creativity, resilience, alertness, attention, and better social and communication skills. Plus, well-rested kids generally perform better in school.
How do you know if your child is getting enough sleep? Not having to pull them from bed in the morning or catching them dozing off during the day are good signs. However, a better way to guarantee that your kid gets adequate sleep is by creating a nighttime routine that allows them to get the recommended sleep hours every night. Importantly, kids may also benefit from consistent bedtimes and wake-up times in order to support their internal clock.
How Much Sleep Does Your Child Need?
In 2016, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) released the recommended duration of sleep for kids of different ages:
- Babies between 4-12 months are recommended to have 12 to 16 hours of sleep, plus naps.
- Children between 1-2 years old need 11 to 14 hours of sleep daily, plus naps.
- Children between 3-5 years old need to sleep for 10 to 13 hours every day, plus naps.
- Children between 6-12 years old need to reduce their sleep to 9 to 12 hours.
- Teenagers need 8 to 10 hours of sleep.
Benefits of Getting the Recommended Sleep
Wondering how quality sleep impacts your child’s wellbeing? Here are three ways sleep improves your child’s overall short-term and long-term health.
1. Sleep strengthens physical health.
After a long and active day, what your child needs the most to recharge and refresh is a restful night’s sleep. Not only does getting the right amount of sleep put your child in a positive and energetic mood the next day, but it also protects them from falling sick frequently. According to an article published in the American Journal of Clinical and Experimental Immunology, when the body doesn’t get enough sleep, it becomes more vulnerable to disease-causing germs. Sleep may also accelerate healing and recovery.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of ways adequate sleep is associated with your child’s physical health:
- It enhances their immune system.
- It heals and repairs their cells, tissue, and muscles.
- It supplies them with energy during the day.
- It promotes healthy physical growth.
- It speeds up their reaction time.
- It regulates the hormones that make your kid feel hungry, so they don’t feel hungrier than usual.
- It helps them maintain proper hydration.
- It prevents tiredness during the day.
- It reduces the risk of obesity for all age groups
2. Sleep supports mental health.
Your child’s mental health is a non-negotiable priority, especially in the early stages of life. Taking steps to support their mental health helps them actively engage with their environment and grow to be mentally strong adults.
According to a 2018 study, quality sleep boosts attention and alertness, particularly for kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Another study shows that sufficient sleep supports language and cognitive development in early childhood. What’s more, a 2016 study suggests that sleep efficiency is positively connected with motor skill learning in children.
Longer sleep duration may also mean better grades for your kids. The results of an 8-hour sleep challenge during final exams found that students who slept for more than 8 hours performed better than those who slept for less than 8 hours.
Overall, children who consistently get quality sleep:
- Have better language skills
- Have improved attention
- Learn faster
- Perform well in school
- Process and retain information better
- Relate better with people and their environment
- Have stronger short-term and long-term memory
- Are more resilient
- Are more creative
- Can stay on tasks for longer without losing focus
- Make better and more intentional decisions
3. Sleep promotes emotional wellbeing.
Quality sleep may also support your kid’s emotional health. When your kid constantly sleeps efficiently, they’re better able to manage their emotions.
Research shows that well-rested children are:
- Less irritable
- Show more positive emotions
- Handle difficulty better
- Less likely to develop depression and anxiety
- Have stronger coping skills
- More likely to be empathetic
- Able to organize and communicate their thoughts with clarity
- More expressive
Tips to Help Your Kids Get the Rest They Need
Do your child’s recommended sleep hours seem impossible to meet? You can start with small but meaningful changes to help get them there. Creating a simple routine that optimizes their day to be active and helps them wind down in the evening can be a great first step to supporting healthy sleep for your child.
This guide gives you research-backed ways to ensure your child is regularly getting the right amount of sleep for their health and wellbeing.
- Prioritize daytime playtime: Try to support your child’s physical activity by scheduling time during the day where they just play and move around more. Daily activity is not only great for their physical and mental health, but it also prepares their body for a complete and refreshing nighttime rest by exposing them to important sunlight that supports their internal clock.
- Establish consistent sleep-wake times: Establishing regular sleep and waking times primes their body to naturally want to sleep and wake around those hours. Soon you may no longer need six bedtime stories to get them to sleep or five alarms to get them out of bed.
- Limit screentime near bedtime: First, try to make sure there are no electronic devices in your kid’s room. Next, limit screentime to at least two hours before sleep time. Doing this helps make sure they’re not doing anything with their smartphones or computers that may make them postpone sleep. The blue light exposure from these screens may also stimulate them and prevent them from relaxing for efficient rest.
- Establish an evening routine that helps them wind down: Support your child’s sleep requirement by putting in place activities that help them unwind and prepare themselves for sleep. A good bedtime routine for kids between 1 to 7 years usually involves having a healthy and light snack, taking them to use the bathroom, brushing their teeth and having a warm bath, wearing their pajamas, and reading to them till they fall asleep. You can adjust as they get older.
- Limit caffeine and heavy and sugary meals at night: Research shows that having heavy or sugary meals close to bedtime may limit how some people (including your child) fall and stay asleep. Also, try to be careful not to give your child drinks or food with caffeine in the afternoon as this may activate their minds and heighten their senses, preventing them from relaxing for a good night’s sleep.
- Keep all schoolwork to the early parts of the evening: Ensuring that your child does their assignments right after they get back from school is another way to promote healthy sleep at night. This way, their brain will be more lightened for bedtime.
- Make their bedroom sleep-conducive: You can start by painting their rooms with any colors thought to support overall mood and may be calming for some people. Blue, yellow, silver, and green may be some of your best bets to lull your kid to sleep. A calm, comfortable, tidy, quiet, and low-light bedroom may also assist in sending your kid quickly to la-la-land.
Prioritizing your child’s sleep hygiene may be a simple and effective way to support their overall health and wellbeing.
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