The below post was featured in my school’s newsletter, so if you read it and wonder if you have seen it before that may be why! Sleep is becoming more and more of a crucial issue for us all so I have put together some of the research to encourage you and help you make educated decisions re your child’s and your own sleep habits.
On the weekend we were invited to a wonderful family wedding that meant my children went to bed later than usual. The next day one of my boys in particular really struggled! He found it hard to listen to instructions, answered back and kept moving all day! This caused me to reflect on the importance of sleep. In many ways our society underestimates the difference sleep can make and we need to be getting the message across to our children that a good nights sleep is important.
How much sleep do we need?
According to a Flinders University Researcher different children need different amounts:
“Dr Michael Gradisar, director of the Flinders University Child & Adolescent Sleep Clinic, says as with height and weight, sleep needs vary in kids. “The important thing is to see if they are functioning well. If they’re moody, irritable, tired or having trouble concentrating, then this may indicate they need more sleep,” he says.”
There are some general guidelines, and according to Associate Professor Sarah Blunden, Founder and Director of the Paediatric Sleep Clinic (Adelaide, South Australia) they are as follows:
- Babies under 1: 14-18 hours throughout the day and night
- Toddlers: 12-14 hours per 24 hour period
- Primary school: 10-12 hours per day
- High school: 8-10 hours per day
- Adults: 7-9 hours per day
- young children who don’t get enough sleep typically become hyperactive, with a tendency to get angry faster, be more aggressive and have poor attention spans, as a result, they are often mislabelled as ‘difficult children’.”
- Poor sleep can result in memory and attention lapses, difficulty with learning and school work.
- You can get sick more often and have more accidents and even be more likely to be overweight.
- Depression can be linked to poor sleep.
- There has been found a strong link between sleep and academic performance. In a study published in 2008, Dr Blunden found that children involved in remedial education programs were more likely to suffer sleep problems than their mainstream counterparts.
‘Sleep Hygiene’ is the term used to describe our sleeping habits and needs. There are certain things that can be done to improve our sleep.
- No TV/computer games 1 hour before bed. No TV s in bedrooms
- Monitor mobile phone use in bed – we keep a designated spot where all phones get put at night
- No coke/caffeine, high sugar or high spicy food 3-4 hours before bed
- Ensure relaxing and regular bed time routines – make it a special time with children. Cuddling and reading a picture book is so nice, or even, a friend has told me, before bed, she and her son sit quietly on the couch together for 30 minutes each reading their own book, but they are being together and sometimes share what they are reading or chat.
- No vigorous exercise 1 hour before bed – it raises the body temperature
- Finish eating 2-3 hours before bed – digestion competes with sleeping – hot milk is OK
- Make sure the bedroom is comfortable (temperature, light, noise)
- Set bedtimes and wake times – try and keep these regular
- Learn to relax – deal with worry and stress, relaxation techniques such as breathing also help to slow the body down.
In the common scenario of children who lie in bed at night, tired but unable to fall asleep, Dr Blunden suggests adopting a consistent and early wake up time. They need to adjust their body clocks so they can get the required amount of sleep ending at the appropriate wake-up time.
If you would like to read more information in more detail, my 2 points of reference for this article have been: