Not everyone is lucky enough to have kids that are high sleepers. No bags under their eyes, no visitors climbing into the bed in the middle of the night, every night- you spot them rather easy.
Night terrors, bedwetting, early wake-up times- these are only a few to name by parents that haven’t had a good night sleep for years. Apart from rarely being to sleep throughout the night, the parents have to deal with a more important problem: their kid’s health is going to suffer from sleep deprivation. And a kid that isn’t healthy isn’t going to develop right- for so many reasons.
What’s the sleep-health connection?
When a kid cries for no obvious reason, sleep deprivation may be one of the main causes. And, most of the time, an afternoon nap isn’t going to be enough.
Some while ago, a British study revealed that 3years old children that slept fewer than 10 and a half hours a night (without the daytime naps) presented a 45% higher risk for becoming obese by age 7. This was done by comparing with the children sleeping more than 12 hours a night. The studies also showed a connection between sleep deprivation and the higher risk for developing both cardiovascular and diabetes. This sure doesn’t sound like a typical health problem for children.
Unfortunately, sleep deprivation means a higher risk of metabolic disorders, starting early in life. On top of everything else, they’re also permanent. Therefore, sleep can impact a child’s normal development, and pediatricians should seek into it.
Not getting enough sleep may alter the immune system as well. It increases the level of inflammation in the body. Poor sleep also means behavioral problems. And we’re not only talking about the typical crankiness but also the aggression, the hyperactivity, and the poor school performance.
The problems above develop in kids with sleep apnea. This one is a disorder that includes disrupted breathing. This leads to frequent night walking and arousal. Sleep apnea (along with any other sleep-related disorders) have a great impact on the sleep cycle, especially on the executive function. It may even be similar to ADHD.
Parents can say when their kid didn’t get enough sleep the night before. It’s the cumulative effects that are more difficult to identify.
A young child that didn’t sleep well last night may seem like he/she has way too much energy. At the same time, he/she can be hyper and pretty irritable, pushing the bedtime even later. When a teacher points out that your kid isn’t performing well, you should take a look at the amount and the quality of the sleep too.
When should you be concern about it?
Don’t make a drama if your kid doesn’t sleep well every once in a while. Disruption in sleep is a normal part of childhood. This doesn’t mean that the risk for other underlying issues is null.
Unfortunately, parents seem to forget that there are ways for solving the sleep deprivation. Seeing a pediatric sleep physician is one choice they often forget.
A snoring child and looking tired may be a sign that he’s dealing with sleep apnea. When nightmares appear all of a sudden and continue for several weeks, it’s best that you pay attention to what’s happening throughout the day. Check also the type of media that your kid is consuming. The doctor may have a couple of suggestions on that.
What’s the right number of hours of sleep for your kid?
The following numbers are only to make an idea about how much your kid should sleep. Take it with a grain of salt:
- Younger than 2 months: 16-18 hours
- 2-6 months: 14-16 hours
- 6-12 months: 12-16 hours
- 1-3 years: 11-14 hours
- 3-5 years: 10-13 hours
- 5-12 years: 9-12 hours
How can you help your kid have a better sleep?
Not having a conducive to sleep bedroom may also affect the sleep of your kid. You should create the best environment for your kid to sleep. Here are some tips to try:
- Good read lights and nice red bulb night lights
When the lights are bright, the internal clock gets fooled, and it’s going to be more difficult for your kid to fall asleep. Turn off/dim the overhead lights in the room at least one hour before bedtime. You should also have a lamp/two in the living room. Use a small reading light for reading to your kid. Once he’s able to read, have him pick a nice light for reading before going to sleep.
If you’re planning to use a night light (for night feeding, potty trips or…for night monsters to scare them away), it’s best that you go with red bulbs. Warm, dim, and less activating to the brain, the red light is a great addition for any bedroom.
Are there are electronics with small lights on them? Make sure you turn them off, or you set them on a low setting before tucking the kid in.
- Install some soundproof curtains or blackout shades
It’s not only the light that may impact your kid’s sleep, but the noise from the outside can also do that too. You should install some noise canceling curtains for reducing the noise in the room. They can work as blackout shades too if they come in a dark color.
- Eliminate the clutter
If a pile of clothes in your bedroom cannot help you relax, a pile of Legos in your kid’s bedroom may have the same effect too. Sleeping spaces are designed for sleeping. If they’re a constant reminder of all the things we’re going to have to do, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to let go and get in a calmer mood. Make sure you have enough bins for all the toys in the bedroom. Put them away together with your kid before bedtime.
- Use a white noise machine
Background noise is going to help your kid not to wake up the other person when they’re sharing the room. Some like to use a fan for that- it does the trick, and you don’t need to spend any more money on another device.
Go with a low or moderate volume for the machine. Your kids developing brain is rather sensitive. If he only listens to loud, static noise, his only going to become less sensitive to lower noises. Instead, you should use static noise that is low, natural, and calming. It’s going to help him slow down the pace and get in a calm mood.
- Create the best place to sleep in
If you’re determined that your kid is going to sleep alone throughout the entire night, you should make sure that he has the best place in the world to sleep in. He/she should feel comfortable and confident in the bed.
The mattress has to be supportive and breathable. You don’t want him to wake up in the middle of the night all sweaty and cranky. Don’t forget about the pillows. Not only that they need to have the right size for your kid, but they also have to be fun and fluffy for giving him the best feeling of coziness. Body pillows are great for the spine- maybe your kid is going to fall for it.
The sheets and blankets count too. Look for the fibers that have a soft touch feel, increasing your kid’s level of comfort.
Kids tend to get attached to a blankie, a stuffed animal, or even a pillow. Don’t push them and encourage them. As long as they sleep throughout the entire night, why not giving them the chance to use their favorite pillow in bed? Just don’t forget to wash them and now and then.