“Mom, just a little more, please!” Does this sound familiar? Kids need around 9-10 hours of sleep per night, but it’s estimated that up to 40% of children aren’t getting this recommended amount. Lack of sleep can, not only cause grumpy, irritable kids, but can also seriously affect a child’s health. Here are what benefits kids are missing out on when they don’t get enough sleep:
Sleep Affects Growth
Have you ever looked at your kid in the morning and thought he or she grew overnight? It could be true! During deep sleep, growth hormones are released that help your kid grow big and strong. Researchers have found that children with inadequate levels of these hormones have an inconsistent sleep schedule and aren’t getting enough shuteye.
Strengthens the Immune System
Cytokines, a protein used to help the body fight infections, is produced during sleep. When kids don’t get enough sleep, their bodies can’t produce an adequate supply of cytokines and therefore are unable to fight off common colds, flus, and other illnesses. Keep kids out of the doctors’ office by keeping them in bed for a decent night’s sleep!
Helps with Weight Control
Childhood obesity is a major problem throughout the country. Although kids are encouraged to get up and move to avoid obesity, could the answer really be to go back to sleep? There are numerous studies that show a connection between lack of sleep and obesity in children, all thanks to the little hormone called leptin. This hormone signals to the brain that it’s time to stop eating, but when kids are sleep deprived, the hormone is not as effective in sending the message. As a result, they continue to eat even when they’re already full! Research has also shown that kids, just like adults, crave unhealthy junk foods when they’re tired instead of nutritious snacks, leading to poor eating habits that can carry on well into adulthood.
Bottom line: kids need sleep. But, about two-thirds of parents say they have an issue with getting their child to go to sleep at least once a week! So, how do you get your kids to reap these benefits by going to bed at a reasonable hour?
Create a No Phone Zone
The bright light of a smartphone can severely interfere with a child’s ability to fall asleep. Not only does this light confuse the brain by throwing off the natural rhythm of sleep, but there’s also the possibility that a late-night text or phone call could disturb your child once he or she is already asleep! Limit your kid’s smartphone use at night by making the bedroom a no phone zone in the hours before bedtime.
Establish a Routine
No matter how old your kid is, he or she needs to establish a consistent routine in order to get to bed on time. For little kids, plan an activity such as reading a bedtime story together that will help them wind down and relax before climbing into bed. Teens should be encouraged to enjoy something more age-appropriate, such as a warm, soothing bath or shower. Whatever activity you choose, be sure to arrange for it to last for about 20-30 minutes right before bedtime.
Use the Bed for Sleep Only
When kids spend time doing other activities in bed such as homework, playing on their phones or watching TV, their brains begin to associate this sleepy space with stimulation or stress, making it harder to shut down and fall asleep at night. Teach kids that their bed is only for sleeping, and be sure that they have a desk or other space in their bedroom where homework can be done so they don’t have to resort to the bed. Designating the bed as a sleep-only space will help the brain associate it with calming thoughts, allowing kids to drift peacefully into sleep.
Photo credit: Fizkes