Over the summer, many children change their sleeping patterns. They're often up later at night, sleep in during the day, or take naps in the afternoon. The return of school can present challenges for kids and parents alike.
Does this really matter?
More and more research illustrates the importance of sleep for children's health, academic performance, and behavior. Signs of sleep-related problems may show up in a number of ways with kids, including daytime sleepiness, inattention, poor concentration, moodiness, behavioral problems, irregular social skills, and poor academic performance.
Focusing solely on academic performance, a number of recent studies around the world found that higher performing kids average more sleep per night and earlier bedtimes than their poorer performing peers.
How can we help our kids get the proper amount of sleep?
Here are 6 suggestions:
1. Limit Bedtime Activities -- a routine of relaxing activities like reading or music can help most kids sleep better. Electronics should generally be avoided because they tend to stimulate kids.
2. Establish a Sleep Schedule -- similar to routine activities, experts recommend consistent times to go to sleep and wake, ideally not differing much during the week or on weekends.
3. Create a Conducive Environment -- research has found that children generally sleep faster and deeper when the room is dark, cool, and quiet.
4. Promote Regular Exercise -- Experts recommend a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity for kids each day, which can yield many benefits, including better sleep.
5. Limit Caffeine -- it's advisable to limit caffeine, particularly late in the day, which includes tea, soda, and chocolate.
6. Avoid Late Afternoon or Early Evening Naps -- toddlers need naps but naps can result in later bedtimes and less sleep for older children.
Many parents actually overestimate the amount of sleep their children receive because they don't know when kids actually fall asleep or how often kids wake during the night. If you suspect that your child has significant sleep issues or that medical problems (e.g., asthma or reflux) may be the cause, you should consult a doctor.
Sleep deprivation is getting more attention these days due to our increased understanding of the negative effects it can have. For children with medical conditions like ADHD or autism, the ramifications can be even greater. For specific recommendations on sleep and other children's topics, please refer to this chart that our medical advisors helped develop.
Ensuring that your children get the proper amount of sleep each night can have a major impact on their lives! What works with your kids? Please post your thoughts on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page or find us on Twitter @AdventureToFit!