This blog is courtesy of Jamy Russell, who started Sleep Investor to teach people simple, yet effective ways to improve sleep. Falling asleep doesn’t have to be as difficult as many people make it out to be, and often there are many easy wins that people overlook in their quest for better sleep.
Netflix said in a recent interview that their main competitor is sleep. This is bad news for all of us – but especially for our children, who require more sleep than adults.
Here are the guidelines for the recommended amounts of sleep needed by age.
- Ages 4 months and 12 months – 12 to 16 hours per day (including naps)
- Ages 1 and 2 – 11 to 14 hours per day (including naps)
- Ages 3 and 5 – 10 to 13 hours per day (including naps)
- Ages 6 and 12 – 9 to 12 hours per day
- Ages 13 and 18 – 8 to 10 hours per day
Why is sleep so important for kids?
Since the brain and body of your child continues to develop until they are 25, a lack of sleep can cause many problems. Apart from lower grades, it also has been linked to conditions such as ADHD. A recent study found that “Each additional hour of sleep on school nights lowered the odds of scoring in the clinically significant range of emotional disturbance and ADHD by 25 percent and 34 percent, respectively.”
Now, this is of course a scary thing to know as a parent when you see your kid getting on average 7 hours every night (or less). But when explaining the importance of sleep to your child, you should focus on gains rather than losses. It’s also helpful to use examples that will resonate with them. For example, telling your child that getting 8+ hours of sleep will decrease heart disease risk may not resonate with them, but telling them that better sleep will help improve their school grades or physical development (weight and height) will.
3 Easy tips to help children sleep better
#1 Install Flux
Going back to Netflix… Even if your child is too young for Netflix, chances are that they use a phone, tablet or some other type of screen. We won’t go into the morals of whether this is good or bad (even the Ancient Greeks and Romans were complaining about the behaviour of the next generation). However, it remains a fact that blue light from the screen has a horrible effect on melatonin production – the sleepy hormone.
If you can successfully implement a no-screens policy after 9pm, well done to you! However, if this fails, why not take a ‘harm reduction’ step and install a blue light filter on their devices? For example, F.lux works for most laptops. And virtually every new phone already has this function installed, so have a play with the settings. Decreasing the amount of blue light on devices your child uses will help them get sleepier naturally.
#2 Prepare your child’s room for sleep
Emphasise that the bedroom is for sleeping, and sleeping only. Once too many gadgets, toys and other distractions enter the bedroom, it can be too tempting to play with those instead of going to sleep. Some easy wins here are:
- Removing the TV from the bedroom.
- Adding a dimmer to the lamp
- Putting a night light and an interesting book on the bedside table
- Blackout shades or curtains.
#3 Lead by example
Kids who grew up with a smoking parent are twice as likely to start smoking as well. And you can bet this behaviour transference isn’t only for the smoking habit! How is your child going to learn the importance of sleep if you yourself are only getting 6 hours a night and watching TV till 12? Some might argue that kids are already asleep by that time and won’t notice, but I disagree. Kids are incredibly perceptive, and it only takes a couple of instances of kids to notice you asleep on the couch at 11.30 PM for them to internalise this behavior as something good that adults do (and will consequently mirror).
In a nutshell – the more you care about your own sleep, the higher the chances your kids will do so too.
Bonus tip: Accept that their circadian rhythm changes as they get older
Recent sleep research by Matthew Walker proves what parents have known for centuries – teens have a different circadian rhythm. On average, they go to bed 2 hours after their parents and wake up 2 hours later as well. This is the first step nature provides them to gain a little bit of independence from their parents.
Schools might not accept this fact yet, but as a parent it’s a good idea to allow your kid to sleep in on weekends. It’s not that they’re lazy, it’s biology. Really! And be honest – you did the same a long time ago, right?
Feature image: Pixabay