I often write about the importance of sleep for children. Given our focus on well-being as a result of all that has happened this year, it seems a good idea to look at sleep habits as a part of improving children’s well-being. There has been so much research about the impact on learning of children not getting enough sleep. Here is the information from the Ministry of Health (https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/healthy-living/food-activity-and-sleep/sleeping/helping-children-sleep-better):
How much sleep your child needs in 24 hours
The table below shows the recommended total hours of sleep per day for children and young people. Some children naturally sleep slightly less or more than these recommended hours.
|School age (5–13 years)
|Teenagers (14–17 years)
|Young adults (18–25 years)
Yawning and drowsiness are not the only signs that a student is getting too little sleep. Other symptoms put forward by research include hyperactivity, crankiness, impulsiveness, and a short attention span. Sleep loss also has less obvious effects on health, emotions and academic success. These effects have long-term consequences in the educational setting but also for healthy living and skill development outside school. (Douglas Research Centre, Canada).
Sleep problems are becoming more prevalent amongst children, especially this year. Insomnia, which has traditionally been attributed to adults, is increasingly being found in children. The latest Education Gazette has explored the link between sleep and wellbeing. https://issuu.com/edgazette/docs/ed_gazette_99-14 Dr Dee Muller says that not sleeping impacts on concentration and memory. Sleep issues are also associated with anxiety, low mood and attention difficulties. Research also indicates that insufficient sleep seems to play a role in the risk of obesity.
If your child is exhibiting any issues in the list above, a great starting point is looking at how much sleep they are getting.
We all know what the recommended bedtime routines for children are, but if you think your child may be exhibiting signs of insomnia, here are some tips from the various sites:
- Be mindful about the use of devices/technology close to bedtime. Turn off the wifi at bedtime then you can be sure that your little insomniac is not able to use their device.
- Anxious children find it difficult to fall asleep. Set aside a time earlier in the day to have a little ‘worry time’. Get them to talk about their anxieties or worries and write it down in a journal. Then if their worries come back to them in bed, remind them that they can look at their worries in the journal tomorrow, they don’t need to think about them now.
- Try to make sure that your child only uses their bed for sleeping – lying on a bed and doing other activities (eg, watching a computer) makes it hard for their brains to associate their beds with sleep.
It may take some time, but focussing on sleep routines will be beneficial in the long term. We have seen miraculous turnarounds in children’s ability to focus and a reduction in impulsivity when parents have managed to get their child to sleep longer each night.