Why Children, Tweens and Teens Need Adequate, Quality Sleep

Sleep is no less important than food, drink, or safety in the lives of children. Sleep problems not only disrupt a child’s nights, they disrupt his days too. Parents must find solutions to sleep problems because it seems “Children do not <outgrow> sleep problems; problems must be solved.” 

Research has shown that not getting recommended amount of sleep increases risk of obesity in children and adults. “Short sleep duration was associated with a three-fold increased risk of the child being overweight or obese,” says researcher Ed Mitchell, DSc, of the University of Auckland in New Zealand. The Harvard School of Public Health Obesity Prevention Source Web site also has information on the link between lack of sleep and obesity. One article states, “There is convincing evidence that getting a less than ideal amount of sleep is an independent and strong risk factor for obesity, in infants and children as well as in adults.”

A few years back Pierrette and I were moderators for  The Coffee Klatch Tweetchat sessions. We had a few sessions on why children need SLEEP. This post is made up of tweets from parents assembled and reorganized under subtitles and added information for parents looking for a solution to their child’s sleep problems.

Sleep Deprived Child ~ Sleep Deprived Parents

Parents with difficult sleepers can take comfort knowing their situation is not unique. Here are comments from other parents:

  • Yes, it is very hard trying to cope with kids, family etc. with NO sleep.

Girl sleeping - Why Children, Tweens and Teens Need Adequate, Quality Sleep

  • It’s so hard to get my husband to help me because he works crazy hours and is exhausted so I have to do it on my own… blah!
  • I feel like I can cope with a lot of things, but lack of sleep can make even ordinary things seem impossible.
  • It’s not just the lack of sleep that makes for crabby days, but the lack of QUALITY sleep!
  • When he rests and sleeps, mom rests and sleeps…. the family functions better and melt downs are an extreme rarity rather than the norm.
  • So true, child’s sleep problems become very hard on parents who are suffering sleep deprivation also!

How Much Sleep Do We Need?

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends school-age children get 10-11 hours of sleep each night and that kids ages 5 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night. The quality of sleep is as important as the quantity, playing its essential role in nervous system development.

Each child is unique and individual variation occurs. When I was teaching, I always felt sorry for the students who seemed too tired at school because they were less mentally alert, more inattentive, unable to concentrate,  easily distracted and often the ones with a short temper getting them into trouble with peers.

Children should have a sufficient amount and quality of sleep to grow, develop, and function well.  With our busy lives and, in many cases two working parents, naps are missed, bedtimes are late, mornings start earlier and nights are hectic with getting everything done to start the next day. Naps play a large role in the healthy sleep of children and should be planned for each day. You may also be surprised to find that a well-rested child is easier to put to bed at night.

Need more convincing? A study group found that children with higher IQs — in every age group studied — slept longer.

How many hours of sleep do you need?

The following is taken from  Helpguide.org  They updated their sleep requirements for each age group in June of 2016 and so did we.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the average adult sleeps less than seven hours per night. In today’s fast-paced society, six or seven hours of sleep may sound pretty good. In reality, though, it’s a recipe for chronic sleep deprivation.

Average Sleep Needs by Age
Newborn to 2 months old12 – 18 hrs
3 months to 1 year old14 – 15 hrs
1 to 3 years old12 – 14 hrs
3 to 5 years old11 – 13 hrs
5 to 12 years old10 – 11 hrs
12 to 18 years old8.5 – 10 hrs
Adults (18+)7.5 – 9 hrs

Sleepy boy - Why Children, Tweens and Teens Need Adequate, Quality Sleep How Sleep Problems Affect the Brain and Bodies of ChildrenBaby sleeping - Why Children, Tweens and Teens Need Adequate, Quality Sleep

  • Babies who sleep less in daytime appear more fitful and socially demanding, and they are less able to entertain or amuse themselves. They are grumpy and in a bad mood.
  • Miss naps… later in the day the child gets so pumped up he cannot easily fall asleep. At bedtime, child is still wide-awake but exhausted!
  • Children who sleep less can behave somewhat like hyperactive children.
  • Even minor sleep deprivation causes fatigue in children.
  • A well-rested child is calm, attentive and usually much more pleasant.
  • Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm.
  • Children who sleep well are quick learners and absorb everything.
  • Kids who sleep well are friendlier and socially interact with ease.
  • Difficulty to fall asleep or stay asleep result in your child becoming overtired and stressed.
  • Adequate sleep helps muscles, bones, and skin grow and repair and fix injuries.
  • Sleep is needed for our body to stay healthy and fight sickness by helping our immune system.

How Sleep Problems Affect the Brain and Bodies of TeensHappy teen - Why Children, Tweens and Teens Need Adequate, Quality Sleep

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests at least nine hours of sleep a night for teens. Read our previous post Sleep problems In Teens Helped by Lifestyle Changes and Changes to Their Bedroom .

Depression and Sleep

From an article titled ” Why is Sleep so Important? – 7 Negative Effects of Lack of Sleep on the Health Ambition site, we learn the followwing:

“Insomnia is also linked to developing depression. Some research has found that people who regularly reported an inability to sleep were five times more likely to develop symptoms of depression. There is again a question as to whether depression led to the sleep loss or vice versa. Regardless, getting a good amount of sleep is considered vital in treating depression effectively.”

What About Melatonin?

A few parents tweeted about using Melatonin to help their child sleep. Products containing melatonin have been available over-the-counter as a dietary supplement in the United States since the mid-1990s. If you are considering using melatonin supplements, talk to your doctor first. The melatonin dosage may have to be adjusted as your child grows, takes on weight, uses other medicaion or experiences more stress like the beginning/ending of school, lack of routine, parents traveling, family illnesses, deaths, holidays, etc.

MELBOURNE, Fla., April 26, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -A new study published in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology by Dr. Daniel Rossignol (International Child Development Resource Center, Melbourne, FL) and Dr. Richard Frye (University of Texas). “These investigators found that, in general, children with autism had abnormally low levels of the hormone melatonin, a hormone that is necessary for the regulation and maintenance of sleep… These findings are important because something as simple as a nutritional supplement (melatonin) could greatly improve both the lives of the children and their parents.”

Parents told us melatonin is inexpensive, can be purchased at most any pharmacy, grocery store or super store such as Sam’s or Walmart, etc.

The child takes his melatonin bout 20 to 30 minutes before bed and it  helps him get to sleep and sleep peacefully. Sleep begets sleep and you will see a remarkable difference over time.

Also read our post: What Is Being Said About Melatonin As a Sleep Aid for Children and Teens

What Is Your Bedtime Routine?

  •  Follow a consistent bedtime routine. Set aside 10 to 30 minutes to get your child ready to go to sleep each night.
  • Wind down from Electronics…yes, they are a stimulant.
  • Bedtime stories should not be exciting or scary books. These motivate reading but surely do not motivate SLEEP!
  • At bedtime and late in the day do not allow your child to have foods or drinks that contain caffeine. This includes chocolate and sodas. Try not to give him or her any medicine that has a stimulant.
  • Schedule enough time to relax before the agreed upon bedtime and have a routine of getting ready for bed.
  • Suggest a relaxing activity to help fall asleep like a writing or drawing in a journal, reading or listening to soft, soothing songs.
  • Try massage, yoga and deep pressure compressions… your OT can help you with this.
  • Buy or make a weighted blanket.  The deep pressure provided by the weighted blanket helps to calm the individual allowing his body to relax and subsequently sleep is induced
  • Teach your child how to handle stress so he does not carry his worries to bed.

What Should I Change in my Child’s Bedroom to Help Him Sleep?

  • Take distractions out of the sleeping area… yes bedrooms are to sleep not to play!
  • Change wall colors to a cool relaxing color.
  • Remove all electronics from the bedroom: computer, television, phone, cell phone, video games…
  • Keep the bedroom cool and dark using a fan and darkening drapes.
  • Have white noise or play soothing surf sounds, or healing and relaxation music for spas.
  • Get fish in in a gurgling fish tank or a small bubbling fountain.
  • Install a star projector on the ceiling.

One mom told us this awesome ‘sleep aid tip”.
“My youngest son has “monster-be-gone” spray. It’s lavender essential oil and water with a dash of glitter (so he can see it on his sheets). It keeps all boogeymen and monsters of all types away and out of his room/closet. Since lavender is very calming and soothing, he’s usually asleep in less than 10 minutes.”

Children Need Sleep – We All Do

All the above are conducive to better sleep and many times must be implemented with life style changes also. Encourage physical exercise, playing outdoors, and eating well. Low stress activities such as swimming, hiking, riding a horse, throwing a frisbee, etc might be better if your child does not like competitive, organized sports.

Sleeping well increases a child’s attention span and allows him to be physically relaxed and mentally alert. We all need sleep to keep us healthy, happy, and doing our best!  Parents are responsible for their child’s sleep habits so it is important to start healthy ones early; it is much easier to instill good habits than correct bad ones.

Great Books and Audio CD with Tips on Sleeping

*Lori Lite Stress Free CD’s and Books – The relaxation music CDs and bedtime stories give you a variety of tools to make bedtime and stress management easy, available, and fun. Check  their website and especially look for  Indigo Dreams,  Indigo Ocean Dreams and Indigo Dreams: Garden of Wellness.

*Learn to Have Fun with Your Senses by John Taylor, PhD

*Be the Boss of Your Sleep: Self-Care for Kids by Timothy Culbert and Rebecca Kajander

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