5 Great Sleep Habits for Kids :: Michael Grose

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Many kids today are sleep deprived. Teenagers, in particular, don’t get enough sleep. They need between nine and 10 hours sleep each night, yet most get about seven or eight hours sleep. Some get less.

Not getting enough sleep leads to sleep deprivation, which is akin to jet lag, where kids don’t function at their optimum. Lack of sleep leads to irritability, decreased creativity, memory lapses as well as strong links to anxiety and depression.

Sleep maximises brain growth, which occurs with toddlers and teens. Sleep also consolidates learning. Sleep research has shown that the brain practises what it has learned during the day when a child or young person is asleep. So sufficient sleep consolidates past learning as well as keeping them fresh to maximise their future learning.

Sleep experts stress that while adults may not have control over biology we can assist children and teens establish good sleep patterns. Children who develop good sleep patterns tend to carry these into adolescence. If you are parent of young children struggling to get them to sleep or battling kids who want to stay up longer then some knowledge of good sleep habits maybe useful.

Good sleep habits include:

  1. Regular bed-times. Kids may fight this, but be regular during the week and let kids stay up a little later on weekends. Children need between 10-12 hours of sleep each day, while teens need a minimum of nine hours
  2. Have a wind-down time of at up to 45 minutes prior to bed. This includes, removing TV and other stimuli, calming children down, and limiting food intake (and caffeine for teens). The wind-down time informs the body clock that sleeping-time is near.
  3. Have a bed-time routine such as story, teeth-cleaning that signals psychologically that it is time for sleep.  A set routine means that kids can predict. It also means that some children will fight bedtime so you need some good strategies in place to get kids to bed and make sure they stay there.
  4. Keep bedrooms for sleep and not for TV’s or other IT entertainment purposes. Bedrooms that resemble caves are recommended. Now it gets tricky with mobile phones and other information technology available, so it maybe smart to keep mobiles & laptops out of bedrooms at sleep-time. This holds for parents too. From what it’s worth most parents have technology-free bedrooms (apart from a clock-radio) yet their kids will have technology-full rooms.
  5. Maximise the three sleep cues of: darkness (cave-like bedroom), lowering body temperature (baths can be good for this) and melatonin (work within their cycle).

With mental health being on the agenda for all Australians there is no better start than attending to good sleep habits. If your kids get less sleep than they should check out the five habits above and work out which of these you can adjust to move things on favour of them getting more sleep.

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