Some people, myself included, perceive children as becoming independent when they can carry out tasks on their own or with minimal supervision. Importantly, independence has to extend to developing healthy eating and sleeping habits.
While I have greater control over their food intake because my kids stay at home 24/7, their sleeping pattern is an entirely different story.
Why rest and sleep are important for a child
Sleep is vital for both adults and kids although it’s often neglected. It’s important to know that getting enough sleep is as essential as eating a well-balanced diet and doing regular exercise to maintain optimal wellness and health.
The benefits of sleep for elementary school-aged kids
After a long day at school. a kid’s body and brain need refueling. During sleep, it’s more than your child’s body that rests—his brain and emotions are allowed to settle as well and will be able to recover after all the activities at home, in school, and with friends.
During sleep, the brain sorts and stores all the information your child has accumulated throughout the day. It sharpens his focus and gives him the ability to make a sound judgment in his everyday life. Furthermore, if your child has enough rest and sleep, he will pay attention and follow instructions right away; thus, he will feel at his best. This will boost his confidence and also improve his interactions with other people.
The effects of lack of sleep on your child
Lack of sleep can pose physical risks (i.e., obesity and diabetes) and lead to mental health and behavioral problems in children. For instance, if your child doesn’t get enough sleep, he may find it difficult to concentrate at school, which will affect his overall academic performance. In some cases, it can lead to irritability, and then a child’s behavior becomes a concern.
A child who has sleep deprivation can suffer negative consequences such as inability to concentrate, anxiety, and, worst of all, depression. As parents, we absolutely must make sure that our children get enough rest and sleep during their early years.
How much sleep do big kids really need?
When it comes to sleep and school-aged kids, how much is really enough? The amount of sleep a growing child needs varies by age. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine emphasizes the importance of good sleeping habits for children.
If your kid falls within the 6-12 age group, he should sleep 9-12 hours a day. If he gets less than the recommended amount of sleep, he definitely lacks sleep, which may affect his health in the long run.
Lack of sleep is widespread among school-aged kids. Many factors account for this state of affairs, including school work, exposure to gadgets, and even your own sleeping habits as a parent.
According to CDC data, 57.8% of middle school children (or 6 out of 10) don’t get enough sleep, the proportion rising to 72.7% for high school students.
How to make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep
Given the importance of sleep, you have to make sure your child gets not only enough of it but also the quality kind. Sleep comes naturally to most kids, but some seem to have a harder time getting their much-needed shut-eye.
Here are some tips to help you ensure that your child grabs all the z’s he needs:
- Set a routine. Try to put your child to bed and wake him up in the morning at the same time every day, even on weekends. This will eventually signal to his body when bedtime comes.
- Cut access to gadgets, TV, and other devices at least 1 hour before bedtime. This will allow your child to settle down and get comfortable before sleeping.
- Minimize lights and sounds in your child’s bedroom. If your kid is used to a well-lit room, choose a warm-colored light because a bright one can affect melatonin levels and delay sleepiness.
- Follow bedtime rituals that will make your child calm. This can be taking a warm bath, reading, or drinking warm milk.
- Avoid giving your child tea, energy or caffeinated drinks, and chocolates in the evening or even late afternoon. He will definitely have a hard time falling asleep if he consumes these too close to bedtime.
Managing kids and their sleep
When it comes to sleeping routines, my children have different needs. While my second one falls asleep fast naturally, my eldest struggles to sleep most of the time. My youngest, who is 3, has an irregular sleeping pattern; oftentimes, she wants to be breastfed so she can fall soundly asleep.
Each child is different, and our approach as parents should be modeled accordingly. It may be easier said than done, but to me, being able to tuck my kids in bed is rewarding, regardless of how quickly or slowly they fall asleep. Watching them peacefully drift off makes me grateful that my children are safe, comfortable, and relaxed. After all, they have to face the world on their own the very next day.