“Time to get ready for bed!” you say. “Oh, no!” your child thinks. “Why do I have to go to bed? Sleep is boring, and I’m not even tired!” They’d rather read that great book or that computer game that they’re winning. But sleep is so much more important than kids even realize. Even smaller children can recognize that they feel groggy and cranky after not getting enough sleep. Learning more about the importance of sleep and how it makes you feel at your best with encourage them to shut those little eyes!
Why You Need Sleep
The average kid has a busy day. There’s school, taking care of chores, running around with friends, going to sports practice or other activities, and doing homework. By the end of the day, their little bodies need a break! Sleep allows one’s body to rest for the next day. Everything that’s alive needs sleep to survive. Even dogs and cats curl up for naps. Animals sleep for the same reason we do — to give your body a tiny vacation!
When a child gets a good nights sleep, their mind and body are rejuvenated to learn and grow the next day. Research has shown that even getting a single hour more of sleep a night can actually make you a happier person! Parents, consider these words from psychologist Norbert Schwarz the next time you tell yourself “I’ll just get a little less sleep tonight!”: “Making $60,000 more in annual income has less of an effect on your daily happiness than getting one extra hour of sleep a night.” You owe it to yourself and your child to get enough rest each night.
Your Brain Needs Zzzzzs
Not only is sleep necessary for your body, it’s important for your brain too. Though no one is exactly sure what work the brain does when you’re asleep, some scientists think that the brain sorts through and stores information, replaces chemicals, and solves problems while you snooze.
Most kids between 5 and 12 get about 9.5 hours a night, but experts agree that most need 10 or 11 hours each night. Sleep is an individual thing and some kids need more than others. Over sleeping can actually cause you to feel groggy as well so find the right amount of time that fits for your kids! A short afternoon nap can do wonders as well.
When your body doesn’t have enough hours to rest, you may feel tired or cranky, or you may be unable to think clearly. You might have a hard time following directions, or you might have an argument with a friend over something really silly. A school assignment that’s normally easy may feel impossible, or you may feel clumsy playing your favorite sport or instrument.
One more reason to get enough sleep: If you don’t, you may not grow as well. That’s right, researchers believe too little sleep can affect growth and your immune system— which keeps you from getting sick.
How to Catch Your ZZZs
For most kids, sleeping comes pretty naturally. Here are some tips to help your child catch all the ZZZs you need:
• Try to get your kids in bed at the same time every night; this helps their bodies get into a routine.
• Follow a bedtime routine that is calming, such as taking a warm bath, drinking some chamomile tea or reading a bedtime story.
• Limit foods and drinks that contain caffeine. These include some sodas and other drinks, like ice tea.
•Don’t have a TV in your child’s room. Research shows that kids who have one in their rooms sleep less. If you have a TV, turn it off when it’s time to sleep.
• Don’t let them watch scary TV shows or movies close to bedtime because these can sometimes make it hard to fall asleep.
•Don’t exercise right before going to bed. It will be harder for them to calm down and relax and get into bed. Do exercise earlier in the day or after school— it helps a person sleep better.
• Make sure your children use their bed just for sleeping — not doing homework, reading, playing games, or talking on the phone. That way, you’ll train their bodies to associate your bed with sleep.
If your child has a hard time falling asleep for more than one or two nights or have worries that are keeping them from sleeping, just talk with them about what’s bothering them so they relax just enough to get ready to sleep. Another strategy is to tell them to make up a story in their mind as they try to fall asleep and start off their “dreaming stage!” What other ways do you get your child ready for bed? Let Chipper know!