Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep?
Thousands of children don’t get enough sleep.
Those are the results of research from the British Nutrition Foundation, who have found that 1 in 3 primary school children sleeps less than 9 hours per night. The same research also discovered that 1 in 10 secondary school students sleeps less than 9 hours per night.
This is less than the recommendations by the NHS, who suggest 9.5 to 11.5 hours per night for primary school children and 9.5 for secondary school children.
One in three secondary students stated they needed more than 10 minutes to get up after the alarm goes off. A third of the primary and secondary school students said they didn’t feel awake or well rested when they woke up.
Some have blamed these results on the use of screens before bedtime. Half of the primary school students confessed to using them before they went to bed on the night of the survey .
But is your child getting enough sleep?
That might be other people’s children. How can you tell if your own child is getting enough sleep?
If a child gets up early off their own accord, the chances are they’re getting plenty of sleep; if they get up and they’re walking around yawning the rest of the day or have droopy eyelids, they aren’t.
Those are the obvious signs. There are others, however, that aren’t so immediately apparent. Keep your eye out for them:
In primary school children
- Difficulty waking up in the morning.
- Lack of interest, alertness or motivation at school.
- Struggling at school.
- Night terrors.
- Snoring, heavy breathing or restlessness while sleeping at night.
- Regular naps or falling asleep when it’s inappropriate.
In pre-teens and teenagers
- Lots of difficulty getting up in the morning.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Late for school.
- Aggressive behaviour.
- Long periods asleep at weekends.
- Irritability early in the afternoon.
- Excessive caffeine consumption.
- State of confusion.
How can you improve the situation?
See any of these signs in your child(ren)? If so, it’s time to do something about it. We all know what nightmares we ourselves can be when sleep is evading us. We can be grumpy and irritable and lack motivation and generally just not function well because we’re so tired. No one wants that for their kids, too.
With that in mind, here are a few approaches to help your child(ren) get more sleep:
Make bedtime earlier
For the children of primary school age, parents should aim for them to get around 10 or 11 hours of sleep each night. Every few days, make their bedtime earlier by 15 to 20 minutes. Your child should have a regular sleep schedule and although you may think it’s okay for them to stay up a lot later at weekends, you should stick roughly to the schedule. The schedule should not vary more than 30 to 45 minutes between weekdays and weekends.
Create a comfortable sleeping environment
Comfort is a major feature of a good sleeping environment. A child may look forward to bedtime more if they can climb into a nice, comfortable bed from a company like Bedstar or other provider. Make sure the mattress is the right size for your child and offers them plenty of comfort and support so they can get a good night’s sleep.
With the bed sorted, you should take care to ensure that the room is cool and dark when the child goes to sleep. Remove any electronic devices from the room and clear it of clutter. The room should also be as quiet as possible.
Avoid giving them caffeine or sugary drinks
Sugar can wreak havoc with energy levels, causing them to slump if we eat too much. At the same time, the more sugar we consume during the day, the more we’re likely to wake up several times during the night. Even if we don’t wake up, the sugar in the system disrupts deep sleep and we end up feeling tired the next day. It means we should keep the amount of sugary drinks we let our children consume to a minimum.
Then there’s caffeine, which is, of course, a stimulant and can help us to feel more alert during the day. This means we should refrain from letting kids consume drinks with caffeine in them, especially in the second half of the day and even more so if it’s close to bedtime. Note that fizzy drinks may also contain caffeine.
Encourage physical activity
It would not only be good for a child’s health for them to exercise, but also good for them when it comes to getting a decent night’s sleep. Aim for your child to engage in at least 1 hour of physical activity per day. Getting them to play outdoors is an excellent option because the exposure to natural light helps to keep the child’s circadian rhythm (which regulates when we sleep and wake up), in sync. Mornings are an especially good time for outdoor activity.
Note that if you’re dealing with teenagers, they may be willingly active anyway, but if they’re not urge them to be so. Exercise increases slow wave sleep (deep sleep), which gives the body more opportunity to rejuvenate. Make your teenager aware, however, that exercising close to bedtime can interfere with their sleep. As well as causing the body to release endorphins, aerobic exercise increases core body temperature, which signals to the body it’s time to wake up. Encourage them to exercise earlier in the day for this reason.
Create a calming bedtime routine
No one can just jump into bed straight after the day’s activities and get straight off to sleep. You need time to wind down first. Develop a routine that helps your child to relax before they climb into their bed for the night. They’ll be able to sleep much easier if they don’t go to bed full of aggro or excitement about whatever has been going on during their day. The implementation of a calming bedtime routine should be the case for teenagers, too, no matter how they battle against it.
Sleep is important for our bodies to rejuvenate and to repair tissues. We need it for smooth cognitive function so that we can perform to the best of our abilities during the day. We need it for good health. It means we should do everything possible to make sure our child(ren) is getting enough sleep. Help them to sleep well enough so that they can be the best version of themselves.