We’ve all read how important it is to get enough sleep as adults. Study after study has shown that sleep affects our overall health in many ways: our neurological function, heart, weight and emotional well-being. The same is true for children, if not even more so.
Sleep is critical for the growing minds and bodies of young children. Just like food nourishes their bodies, sleep nourishes their brains. It’s not just an old wives’ tale: children actually ‘grow’ while sleeping. Sleep literally recharges the brain’s battery: it increases a child’s attention span, helps them feel more relaxed and allows them to be mentally alert. The right amount of sleep for a child increases their chances of becoming their personal best!
The are many guides and reports about the proper amount of sleep for children per age. Parents should familiarizes themselves with these recommendations, however, they shouldn’t stop there. It’s important to use these as guides, not law. Parents need to stay in tune with their kids and understand when they may need to be getting more sleep. Even if the chart says for their age a child should be getting 9 – 10 hours per night, some children just function better on more sleep and subtle cues will help parents find that out.
What kind of clues can help you tell if your child needs more sleep?
They have a hard time falling asleep. Sometimes parents mistake their child’s inability to fall asleep quickly by thinking they’re just not tired. The opposite is actually true! The more tired a child is, the harder it is for them to fall asleep. They’re busy winding down and fighting the sleep urge, and this is usually making bedtime even more difficult.
They have a hard time waking up. If getting your pre-school or school aged child out of bed in the morning is a struggle, consider putting them to bed at least 30 minutes earlier each night.
They don’t stay on task or lose focus. Sleep deprived minds act slower than rested minds. If you notice your child is distracted easily or just doesn’t’ stay on task, sleep may be the issue.
Remember, different children need different amounts of sleep. Average sleep time charts are just that, averages. Tune in and notice your child’s behavior during the daytime. Keep a journal if you need to. Notice the behavior changes in your child and how many hours they sleep each night. If you notice your child is simply easier to deal with during the day and you’ve moved bedtime up by an hour, you’re probably doing the right thing!