Today's children sleep an hour less each night than children of 30 years ago. That doesn't just result in grumpy kids; children who don't get adequate rest suffer a wide array of problems. However, it doesn't have to be that way. You can take steps to ensure your little ones are getting the rest they need.
Fewer Behavior Problems
Children and adults can both suffer behavior problems when they don't get enough rest, but those problems can manifest themselves in different ways. The Kid's Health website reports that while sleepless adults experience a lack of energy, young children can become hyperactive, easily agitated, or display other issues that you might not immediately recognize as resulting from lack of sleep. Kid's Health does, however, caution you to watch your child and learn for yourself how much rest he needs, as few children fit the "recommended sleep" charts exactly.
Better School Performance
Children who get adequate rest do better in school, according to a study quoted in New York Magazine. Dr. Kyla Wahlstrom of the University of Minnesota polled over 7,000 children and parents to ascertain their sleep habits. She found that A students got an average of 30 more minutes of sleep per night than students who regularly scored D's. The article quotes Paul Suratt of the University of Virginia as saying that he believes sleep problems can affect a child's I.Q. as negatively as lead exposure.
Reduced Risk of Obesity
Children who get enough sleep are at lower risk for childhood obesity, according to researchers at the University of Texas in Houston. Studies conducted by the university state that children who slept a single hour less than they needed increased their risk of obesity by 80 percent. This is because the hormones that control hunger are directly related to sleep quality; with too little rest, your child's appetite turns itself on and stays on.
Tips on Helping Your Child Sleep
You don't have to let your child experience the negative consequences of sleep deprivation; there are things you can do to make sure she gets enough shut-eye. The Mayo Clinic website recommends setting and enforcing a regular bedtime, even on weekends. It also suggests that parents create a consistent, predictable bedtime routine including at least 30 minutes of a "wind down" activity, such as story-time for younger children, or a hot, relaxing bath for teens. Using blackout curtains and keeping the rest of the house quiet can also help your child calm down and sleep restfully.