Why Sleep is so Important for Your School-Aged Child
Sleep is something most parents wish they got enough of. But what about our kids? Are they sleeping enough? Chances are that they aren’t. Most kids go to bed much later than they should and wake up too early to get enough sound sleep. That results in sleep deprivation, and as parents we all know what that feels like.
But it’s more than just being tired. Sleep deprivation, particularly in young and developing minds, has serious ramifications. It’s important your child get enough sleep every night. Here’s why.
- It helps your child grow
According to Judith Owens, M.D., the director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center, the hormone that is responsible for growth is released during the stages of deep sleep. It’s why babies and even kids often seem bigger the next day. When your child doesn’t get enough sleep though, they don’t get enough of this important hormone.
- It can cause them to be overweight
Adults that lack sufficient sleep suffer with stubborn midsections. Children too have been shown to gain weight when they don’t get the proper amount of sleep. Sleep deprivation impacts the hormones that tell our bodies we’re full. That’s why the more tired a child is, the more likely they are to eat fattier foods or foods with higher carb levels, just like grownups do. And by being too tired, children will fall more into a sedentary pattern which adds to the weight gain.
- It strengthens immunity
Another thing that affects adults and children similarly is that sleep helps the body produce proteins that fight off illnesses and infections as well as help to lower stress. These proteins, call cytokines, also have the added bonus of making us feel sleepy to encourage us to rest. Studies have shown that children that don’t get enough sleep tend to be more prone to illnesses, just as adults are.
- It provides more focus
Without proper sleep, especially in the younger years, children are much more likely to exhibit problems with hyperactivity by the time they start school. Often confused for ADHD, the problem most kids have is likely due to a lack of proper sleep. In fact, a mere 30 minutes more of sleep per night can completely change moods as well as impulses so your child can be more focused on their tasks.
- Learning abilities are boosted
Studies conducted by Columbia University’s Medical Center have shown that newborns learn while they are sleeping. But it’s not just newborns that grow while they snooze. Sleep helps children of all ages learn better. Even naps are an essential way to make up for that missing bit of sleep a child needs to be most productive in learning.
It’s true that with busy family life, it can be hard to get to bed at a reasonable time, but experts urge you to do it for the sake of your child’s health. Start off small by setting bedtime 10 minutes earlier each night until you arrive at a decent bedtime and you’ll soon see the results of how more sleep can benefit your child.
Barb, LMHC, CPC
Founder of Behavior Corner, LLC