Are Your Children Getting Enough Sleep?

July 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Sleep

When your child is a baby, it seems as if he sleeps all the time. But as he grows older, he sleeps less and less. Research show that many doctors stop asking about sleeping habits as children grow older. But many problems -physical, social, and behavioral—can be traced back to sleep deprivation.

During the sleep process, there are several cycles. Each cycle appears to have a different set of purposes, from memory to behavior to healing and immunity.

Elementary school children aged 7-12 need ten to eleven hours of sleep per night. However, most average about nine.

Teenagers 12-18 need eight to nine hours of sleep. However, teenagers often express their new independence by staying up late playing video games, chatting on the computer, or watching TV.

Symptoms of sleep deprivation in children may vary, and may not be obvious. Reluctance to get up in the morning, an inability to concentrate, sleepiness during school, fatigue, and headaches may all be indications that your child isn’t getting enough sleep.

How can you make a reluctant child go to sleep? You can’t force sleep, but you can identify and remove distractions, and insist on quiet time after certain hours. If he won’t turn off his computer after 10:00, remove it from his room.

The best time to establish good bedtime habits is while children are small. Have a regular routine, and stick with it. “You don’t have to go to sleep, but you have to lie down and rest quietly,” may be one way to enforce “bedtime” with a reluctant child.

One frustrated mother offered her teenager a raise on his allowance in return for going to bed on time and getting up without an argument.

Teenagers often aren’t mature enough to recognize the negative effects of a lack of sleep. Forgetfulness and personality changes can be a sleep problem—or just typical teen behavior.

Many of the positive effects of adequate sleep aren’t readily visible. There’s no way to tell how efficient his immune system is, or how quickly a wound will heal, or even how well his brain is developing—all critical physical responses to the sleep cycle.

It may be critical for parents to set a good sleep example, and insist on compliance with sleep rules, even during holidays, weekends, and summer vacation. They won’t like it; they will probably argue that they aren’t babies anymore, etc.

But it’s like eating vegetables or dressing warm to go out it the cold. Sometimes a parent has to do what’s right for the child, whether the child likes it or not. So tell him to turn off the video game and get some sleep!

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