Every parent knows that sleep is important for children, but unfortunately, most children aren’t getting enough of it. According to a study in 2013 by Boston College in the U.S. which included 900,000 schoolchildren from more than 50 countries, 47% of primary schoolchildren across the world are sleep deprived.
“It is an unrecognized epidemic,” said Dr. Michael J. Breus, clinical psychologist and fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine for WebMD. “It is not widely recognized and appreciated just how pervasive and critical quality sleep is for brain development and how it directly influences daytime functioning, performance, mood, and behavior,” he added.
According to England’s National Health Service, children ages 5 to 9 years old should get 10 to 11 hours of sleep a day, while 10- to 16-year-olds need 9 to 10 hours of sleep.
Not meeting the recommended hours? Here are 5 tips to help your kids get those much needed Zzs:
Tip #1 Screens and devices should be out of reach. Devices like phones, tablets and handheld video games, and television offer limitless entertainment which makes them hard to put down.
Plus, the blue light from these devices throws the body off of its natural sleeping patterns. The body thinks that the light it’s sensing is daylight which stops it from producing melatonin, the body’s sleep hormone, explained Dr. Leonardo Torres, assistant professor of otolaryngology of the University of Miami Health System to Miami Herald. “It is becoming well known that use of these devices before bed reduces sleep from 17 to 45 minutes nightly,” he added. Try banning screen use an hour before bed and see if your child falls asleep faster. Tip#2 Keep the room cool. Many experts have agreed that cooler rooms make for a more comfortable sleep. As recommended, the optimal temperature for the Zs is around 18 to 22 degrees Celsius. Dress your child in comfortable clothes though, because being too cold can also disrupt sleep.
Tip #3 Establish a routine Children love routines. They’re predictable and reliable. Try establishing a bedtime routine for you and your child to do each night. Activities that are calm that will help them wind down are best. A typical routine might involve washing up, brushing teeth, reading a book and a good night hug. “Keep things very basic and simple,” said pediatrician Dr. Hannah Chow to WebMD. Tip #4 Make sure they get enough physical activity. This is during the day, of course. Having unused bundles of energy at night will make it hard for anyone to sleep, especially kids. Let them play outside, ride a bike, run around or dance -- just make sure they don't do any of these activities too close to bedtime.
Tip #5 Be consistent If you’ve started on this important mission to get your child to sleep better, make sure you follow through. If your child learns that the rules are only sometimes enforced, he’ll start to think that it’s okay not to follow them. Consistency is key.