Why is sleep important for kids?
There are so many reasons, but in this article I will discuss 7 of the most important ones!
We now know that it’s important for children to have a healthy diet and get plenty of physical activity since obesity is becoming a well known problem among children – it’s all over the media after all.
But there isn’t much being said about the importance of sleep for children, especially those of school age.
We have always valued the importance of sleep in our house, however, now that my kids are getting older (12 and 14) they have some friends telling them that they get to stay up as long as they want!
In our house we try to have screens off around 9pm on school nights and and lights out is usually by 9:30 and 10pm. On weekends they do stay up later from time to time!
Of course I don’t want them to be made fun of for going to bed early.
So I have started explaining to them why it is important to go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep.
I want them to know that going to bed early isn’t a punishment, instead it is beneficial to their health, just like eating healthy and staying active are.
The Importance Of Sleep For A School Aged Child
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How Much Sleep Does A School Aged Child Need?
Children will vary with regards to how many hours of sleep they need a night, but the general consensus is that children between the ages of 6 and 12 should be getting a solid 9-12 hours of sleep each night according to American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
They also advise a bedtime of between 7 and 8pm for preschoolers and young school aged children.
An earlier bedtime is imperative to getting deep sleep as this sleep cycle happens before midnight!
A recent study found that children who lack sleep my experience detrimental impacts on brain and cognitive development that persists over time.
Babies and toddlers need even more sleep than this!
If you are struggling to get your 0-5 year old to sleep, these articles may be of help:
5 Simple Ways To Help Improve Your Baby’s Sleep Problem
When Do Toddlers Stop Napping; It May Surprise You!
In order for your school aged child to have good sleep habits it is essential to ensure that your child gets the recommended amount of sleep starting from day 1.
As your child gets older it will get more and more difficult to change poor sleep habits.
7 Reasons Why Children Need A Good Night’s Sleep!
♦ Sleep Promotes Physical Growth
Human Growth Hormone is most often released during sleep with peak spikes occurring around 10pm, midnight and 2am.
This hormone is what is responsible for muscle and tissue development!
♦ Sleep Helps With Attention
One study involving kids between the ages of 6 and 15 found children who were lacking in sleep were more hyper, aggressive and impulsive.
These are all indicators of ADHD.
Some children have been misdiagnosed as having ADHD when the real issue is a lack of sleep!
Another study presented at the SLEEP 2015 conference found that motor planning skills – which are often difficult for children with ADHD – improve when the child gets more sleep.
So, if your child is hyper and does not seem tired in the evening, it is most likely because they are actually over tired.
Rather than letting your child stay up later, try getting them to bed earlier.
Start with 20-30 minutes earlier for a few nights and keep adding another 10 minutes to that until your child is going to be at a reasonable time for their age.
My son was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 10. He has always had issues with waking up 1 to 3 times a night, however he is able to get back to sleep on his own.
After we got the diagnosis I started doing more research about natural supplements that can help with ADHD and sleep and was surprised to find that there are studies supporting the use of magnesium to help with both sleep and attention.
So now my son is taking a magnesium citrate powder supplement before bed and it has been helping so much!
Children with autism also often struggle to get a good nights sleep. But there are ways parents can help their child sleep.
Check out this great article specific to sleep and kids with autism!
♦ Sleep Helps The Brain Stay Organized
There is still a lot more research that needs to be done in this area, but what researchers are starting to learn from many sleep studies is that when we sleep our brain goes through a de-cluttering process.
When we sleep the brain is sorting through information and memories deciding what to store and what to discard.
♦ Sleep Helps Kids Learn
As I mentioned above, sleep deprived children often have difficulty paying attention.
But in order to learn new skills and concepts a child must be able to pay attention.
Children who sleep well are better able to store and retrieve information as well as learn new information and use critical thinking skills to process this information.
♦ Sleep Keeps Weight Gain Under Control
Studies are showing that children (and adults) are sleeping a lot less than they used to.
But, our neuroendocrine system is regulated when we sleep.
When sleep is sporadic or inadequate this system goes awry which some researchers believe is in part responsible for the rise in obesity.
Other health issues related to a lack of sleep include diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
♦ Sleep Is Good For Immunity
Getting a good night’s sleep has been linked to a stronger immune system, mainly where colds and flu are concerned.
Simply put, sleep deprivation can suppress immune system functioning.
♦ Sleep Is Good For Mental Health
More and more studies are showing that children who sleep well may have less issues with anxiety, depression and drug and alcohol abuse once they are adolescents and adults.
These 7 reasons for getting a good night sleep do not only apply to children.
Adults should also be aware of the need to sleep well!
I have struggled with insomnia for years.
I know how important sleep is and I have tried and will continue to try everything in order to get 7+ hours of sleep a night!
My children are aware of my struggles with sleep.
We talk openly about it as well as why it is so important for them to sleep well and not compare themselves to their friends who get to stay up late.
Some Tips For Ensuring Your Kids Get A Good Nights Sleep!
♥ Remove electronic devices (including TV’s) from the bedroom – you too mom and dad!
♥ Keep the time when your child goes to bed as consistent as possible (especially during the week when they are in school) and talk to your child about the importance of getting enough sleep.
♥ Weighted blankets are like miracles for some children. My entire family has them and love them!
♥ Encourage your child to wind down for the night by having some quiet time in their room.
They can read, draw or play quietly – but remember, no electronics as these stimulate the brain and make it difficult to get a good quality of sleep.
♥ Try a white noise machine. My husband and I have one in our room and so do the kids!
I hope I have been able to answer the question “why is sleep so important for kids?”
If you have anything to add, please leave a message in the comments below!
Wall Street Journal
National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute
Well done on an interesting and informative article. In fact, I am going to show my twelve-year-old daughter this, as she always stays up until 9:30 and then I really battle to wake her up the next day.
Luckily she doesn’t have any other problems I can see, but I feel she will definitely have more energy if she falls asleep at least a half hour earlier.
As for me, I wish I could sleep through the night. I fall asleep easily but then am wide awake at 2 am. Do you find the white noise machine helps you and your husband to sleep better? I am wondering if it is a worthwhile purchase.
My daughter is almost 12 and our house rule is that she needs to be up in her room and ready for bed between 8:30 and 8:45. She often turns the light out at 8:45 but I have told her if she isn’t tired she can lay in bed and read until 9. She isn’t a big fan of reading so she usually just turns out the light.
I find the white noise definitely helps but it isn’t the perfect solution. I have tried everything, including strong prescription sleeping pills, and 95% of the time I wake up between 2 and 4 and have trouble falling back asleep again. It is very frustrating, but I do find the white noise machine soothing so at least I am not laying there angry (which is what I used to do before we got it).
Anyone that values a healthy lifestyle for their kids ought not to ever make their kids neglect sleep. It is very important and without the strict supervision from parents many kids would stay up all night if possible. From the benefits listed in this post, it is clear that when a child lacks sleep it would have a negative effect on their health and even have an effect on their behavior.
Such an important post with lots to learn for those of us with kids or working with kids.
You are right Jay. Many kids would choose staying up over going to bed (especially if they can be on a device) if there is no parental involvement. Children don’t understand why sleep is important so it can be helpful for parents to explain to their children that sleep is like food. It helps your body and brain grow!
Parents also need to be aware that when a child seems hyper at night it most likely means that they are tired and not the other way around. A child’s body will overcompensate and become hyper in order to stay awake and parents often misread this and think their child doesn’t need much sleep and couldn’t possible be ready for bed.
This is a very important article. However, I must add that if your baby or toddler sleeps too much or over naps, this could be a sign of early onsetting illness.
Why? Though I am not medically trained, I noticed that my boy normally took a nap each day at a certain time. He overslept by half an hour and I thought it was pretty unusual for him.
It turned out he had caught a bacterial infection and had to be taken to the doctor who prescribed tablets to keep him hydrated. He kept on throwing up his milk after or during his feed and was a very tired baby for 3 weeks. I also caught the infection from him and threw up quite a bit.
So not only is there quality of sleep, but length of sleep and what it could mean.
Thanks for this article!
Yes of course there can be medical conditions where a baby or child sleeps too much. But in these cases there are usually other indicators that something isn’t quite right. When my daughter was about 6 months old I asked the dr if something could be wrong with her because she went to bed around 7pm and slept until 7 or 8 in the morning (the whole night through). She also took two to three 2-3 hours a day. The dr checked her out and said she was perfectly healthy and just needed the sleep to grow and develop and that I should be happy about this. Which of course I was when I knew there was nothing wrong with her.
Children typically require more sleep than adults think they do. Especially if the child seems to be full of energy in the evening. In fact this is often an indication of tiredness but is the body’s way of overcompensating.
Totally agree that sleep is important for all ages. At our house we set goals around bedtime just like anything else: household chores, homework, getting things ready for the next day, and getting to bed on time! We even created an online platform to set the goals, track them and reward achievement: GoalUP.com Setting these goals is fostering self-reliance and creating and reinforcing good habits.
I agree Chris! Goal setting is important for all ages, just like sleep. I will check out GoalUp, thanks for the info.
Thanks for the article. Very nice. My daughter is now 18 and a senior in high school and I can tell you that the sleep battles do not get easier in the teen years. There is no accommodation in schools for the fact that teenagers need a lot of sleep and their natural cycles make it difficult for them to be “morning people” and fully functioning for those early morning classes. Homework becomes intense and requires the use of laptops and smartphones and often requires them to work late into the night in front of their glowing screens. In spite of all we — and schools — now know about their sleep needs and the consequences of this lifestyle on memory, mental and physical health, moods and ability to function well in school, nothing has changed to improve the situation for these kids. And the quantity and importance of the homework make it virtually impossible to assert sleep rules in the home.
I am not surprised to hear that sleep becomes a real challenge during the teen age years. My children are 7 and 9 so I still have a few years to go before we get into that territory. I realize that technology is inevitable and that once in high school children will be in front of screens all the time, as you said this is the requirement for homework, projects, etc. But from what we know falling asleep in front of a screen can have detrimental effects on the quality of ones sleep. I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing more and more teens with diagnosed sleep disorders.
Yes, we now know how bad for these kids this lifestyle is. We have a good idea from work with circadian rhythms the impact on the brain that results from exposure to light at night. (Apple has invented a new technology that automatically shifts the light spectrum emitted by iPads as night progresses but few kids have this yet) And every parent can witness the reduction in alertness and mood changes of their teens during the day, especially in the mornings when they can barely function. The problem is that the schools have not responded to the information. They know the facts. They know that, without adequate sleep, the kids will have great difficulty in even retaining what they are studying. But it is difficult for them to restructure the schools days to start later and there is no coordination among faculty to ensure that the homework load at night is reasonable and would ensure kids could get enough sleep.
This information is so helpful to those of us who work in early childhood education. There is a reason that programs who are state licensed and accredited must show that there is a daily rest/nap time in their class schedules. Over the last 10 or so years, I can’t tell you how many families are requesting that we keep their child awake (which we do not, especially of the child clearly needs the rest). These seven reasons will help us better educate our families on the importance of sleep.
Thanks for your comment Leslie! For some reason many people think that once children are in school they no longer require the sleep that they did when they were babies, toddlers or even preschoolers. The public needs more education on how a child actually develops.
Great article! I have kids that are around the same age as yours and we are in bed winding down at about 7:30 so that hopefully we are asleep by about 8. We do stay up later on the weekends if we don’t have anything going on the next day. I don’t think we can underestimate how important sleep is for children and your article gives so many great reasons why. I’ll add these to my mommy talk when the kids ask why they have to go to bed so “early”
Thanks for your comment Momma Bear! I am happy to hear you are a strong supporter of sleep for children as well!