Sleep matters at all ages, for some surprising reasons

Besides tired, lack of sleep can make kids wired and even accident-prone

child sleeps near clock

Sleep is essential to overall good health and it affects mood and emotions, eating habits, energy levels and ability to pay attention.

Lack of sleep can also impact your child’s weight. While you sleep, your body is repairing itself and creating energy for the next day.

How much sleep does your child need?

  • Toddlers: 12-14 hours
  • Preschoolers: 11-13 hours
  • School-age kids: 10-11 hours

Not enough sleep leads to:

  • Poor mood management. When kids don’t get enough sleep, they can have trouble managing their emotions. Lack of emotional control can impact friend and family relationships, as well as decision making skills.
  • Weight gain. Sleep-deprived children have bigger appetites, and their bodies don’t make the hormones needed to regulate food intake.
  • Learning difficulties. Sleep helps build memory. Without enough sleep children can be easily distracted and inattentive which leads to learning retention.
  • Accidents. Just like adults, tired kids are a bit clumsier. A tired brain is not able to process as quickly as an alert brain to prevent accidents from occurring.
  • Impulsivity. Tiredness can cause children to be overly active and struggle with impulse control.

Tips to help your child get sleep

  • Bedtime routine. Bedtime routines are important at all ages. Having a routine helps prepare your mind and body for sleep.
  • Consistent sleep schedule. It’s better to stick close to the same sleep schedule all week long, including weekends. It’s difficult to wake up early Monday morning after sleeping late on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Lights out, gadgets off. Screens in a dark room can make it harder to sleep. Having lights, phones or televisions on can trick the brain into thinking it’s still daytime and time to be awake.
  • Power naps. Most kids over 5 years old don’t need a nap. However, sometimes a short nap can help refresh your child to get through the rest of the day. If your child is over 5 years old and needs a nap, limit it to 20 minutes, or just try for an earlier bedtime.
  • Daily exercise. Moving in the day helps children sleep well at night. Active kids tend to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer than inactive kids.

Sleep is important at all ages. Make time in your family schedule for your child to sleep. And take time to get your rest so your mind and body are ready for the day too.

If you are concerned about your child’s sleep habits, contact your doctor or call (605) 312-8390 to talk to a Sanford Children’s family life specialist.

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Posted In Children's, Parenting, Sleep Medicine

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