Sleep is as essential to well-being as nutrition and exercise are, yet many families (children and their parents) can experience difficulties sleeping at various life stages.
How do you get your children to bed and keep them there? What should you do when children wake up in the middle of the night? And how much sleep is enough?
The NHS offers the following guidance:
There is a clear link between a lack of sleep and your children's behaviour, though this is not always obvious. When adults are tired, they often become grumpy or lack energy. However, when children are tired, they often become over-excited, irritable, and can exhibit extreme behaviour changes.
As you can imagine, this has a significant impact on how our children learn!
As we sleep, we pass through five stages. These stages 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM (rapid eye movement) make up one sleep cycle. Each sleep cycle lasts about 90 to 100 minutes so, during one night's sleep, a person will experience about four or five complete sleep cycles. Stages 1 and 2 are light sleep stages.
Stages 3 and 4 are the deeper sleep stages:
The final stage of our sleep cycle is called REM because of the rapid eye movements that occur:
Pre-schoolers need about 10–13 hours of sleep each night. Children who get enough sleep at night may no longer need to nap through the daytime. Instead, they may benefit from having a period of quiet time during the afternoon. Most nurseries organise quiet periods through the day when children lie on mats or just rest. As pre-schoolers give up their naps, they may begin to go to bed at night earlier than they did as toddlers.
Primary Children need about 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night. Sleep problems can appear at this age for a variety of reasons. Schoolwork, homework, sports, after-school activities, screentime and busy family schedules can all contribute to young children not getting the sleep they need. Sleep-deprived children will become hyper and irritable, and they will struggle to focus and study at school.
Teenagers children need between 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night, but most don't get this, usually because their schedules are overloaded or because they spend too much time messaging or chatting with friends until the early hours. Some teenagers try to go to sleep early, but instead of getting much-needed rest, they lie awake for hours.
Many teenagers are chronically sleep-deprived and their sleep deficit adds up over time. An hour less sleep each night adds up to a whole night without sleep by the end of the week!
Teenagers with a sleep deficit can't concentrate, study, or work effectively. A lack of sleep will lead them to become less attentive and to perform inconsistently at school. They also can develop emotional problems, like depression. Teenagers may start to use stimulants like caffeine or energy drinks to feel more awake.
During adolescence, the body's circadian rhythm (an internal biological clock) is re-set, telling the teenager to fall asleep later each night and wake up later each morning. So, teenagers physically find it more difficult to fall asleep, and often they will need to catch up on sleep during the weekend.
And if your child cannot sleep? … Let them get up. They should not have to lie there and worry about it. They should get up and do something that they find relaxing until they feel sleepy again, then go back to bed.
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