|Erica Jannisch, CPNP|
School and activities are in full swing by this time of year. Increasing school obligations (e.g. homework), evening activities and, later bedtimes make getting the recommended 10-11 hours of sleep a difficult task.
We all know that getting enough sleep is important, but most don’t know WHY this rest/recuperation is so important and HOW it affects your child’s health and ability to function mentally, physically and emotionally.
Mood: Not getting enough sleep can cause your child to be moody, irritable, and cranky. He/she may also have a difficult time regulating his/her mood, such as getting frustrated or upset more frequently.
Behavior: School-aged children who do not get enough sleep are more likely to have behavior problems, such as noncompliance and hyperactivity.
Cognitive ability: Inadequate sleep may result in problems with attention, memory, decision making, reaction time, and creativity, all which are important in school.
Weight gain: Not enough sleep alters important hormones that help our bodies’ burn fat and regulate our appetite.
Here are ways to ensure that your school-aged children sleep well:
Develop a regular sleep schedule. Aim for your child to go to bed and wake up at about the same time each day.
Maintain a consistent bedtime routine. School-aged children continue to benefit from a bedtime routine that is consistent every night and includes calm and enjoyable activities. Bedtime is a perfect time to have one-on-one time with a parent and is helpful in maintaining communication with your child.
Set up a soothing sleep environment. Make sure your child’s room is free of any TV’s and/or electronic devices. All screen time should end at least 1 hour prior to bedtime.
Set limits. If your child stalls at bedtime, be sure to set clear limits, such as what time lights must be turned off and how many bedtime stories you will read.
Avoid caffeine. Caffeine can be found in sodas, coffee-based products, iced tea, and many other substances.
Contact your child’s doctor or nurse practitioner. If your child has difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep, snores, experiences unusual awakenings, or has sleep problems that are causing disruption during the day.