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4. Children & Sleep

As we previously alluded to, sleep is vitally important in the early stages of a child’s development. It’s perhaps no more important than at this incredibly early stage of life to get enough rest.

The importance of sleep for children

There are a number of areas where getting enough sleep stands out as crucial for kids. Here are four of the most important reasons to ensure a child gets enough during their developmental stage.

Growth – Babies and young children grow at rapid rates. If you’ve ever wondered why, the answer lies in the amount of sleep children get when compared to adults. As we’ve already discussed, growth hormone is released while sleeping. As such, it stands to reason children who sleep for longer at this tentative stage will develop quicker.

It could even be the case that kids who don’t get enough rest during their formative years end up with a stunted growth as a result. The Gallo Institute are one of many who cite a lack of sleep as a primary factor in someone’s growth being hampered.

Attention span – With concentration levels impacted by sleep deficiency, a child is less likely to give you their full attention. This becomes a particular issue for kids who are at school age. Poor concentration levels in the classroom often translates to worse grades.

The impulsive and distracted behaviour which children often demonstrate while tired closely mirrors the symptoms of ADHD. It’s for this reason many children will wrongfully be diagnosed with the condition at such an early age.

Fighting illness – Cytokines are produced to fight illness. These proteins have the power to battle diseases, and will be amplified during periods when you have a cold. The less sleep you get, the fewer cytokines your body will produce. Children are better equipped to fight off common illnesses – like a cold – if they stick to a regular sleeping pattern.

The body – As we’ve already seen, the body is heavily impacted by sleep levels. A child’s heart and weight will be just as disadvantaged as an adult’s if they fail to get the recommended amount of sleep. They’re likely to be even more at risk, as a result of having younger and more tender organs.

Tips for helping a child fall asleep

Getting a child to go to (and stay) in bed is one of the trickiest tasks for parents. There’s no right or wrong way to do this, as it depends heavily on the individual personality of the child. That in mind, here are some tips which are, for the most part, accepted as helpful for coaxing a child to sleep.

Give kids a warning – Kids aren’t as good at keeping the time as you. Don’t just spring bedtime on them at the last minute. Make sure they have a rough idea of how long it is before they need to head to sleep. This will give them a chance to start mentally preparing for their bed.

Don’t sing or rock a child to sleep – This has been passed down as a means of getting a child to fall asleep for years. While it will have the desired effect most of the time, it makes things a nightmare should they wake up again in the middle of the night. Younger children will need to be cradled back to sleep if this was how they initially fell asleep. When kids get used to falling asleep only under certain circumstances it’s known as sleep-onset association disorder.

Make them as comfortable as possible – Just as you would like to feel as relaxed as you can when in bed, so too will a child. Make their sleeping environment as comfortable as possible by providing them with as little or as much as they need. Listen to their complaints, if they have any.

Use a reward system – It might even be worth investing in a specially designed reward system to encourage a child to get as much kip as they can. Let’s say they head to bed five nights in a row on time. This could be rewarded with a star. Once they have enough stars they get a fun day out or another kind of present.

Developing a bed-time schedule

The key to any good night’s sleep for a child is getting into a regular bedtime schedule. This is easily achieved via the creation of a plan. There’ll naturally be some nights when you won’t be able to stick to this. For the most part though, this’ll serve to keep a child on course.

A good example of a sleeping schedule might look like this:

If you roughly follow this pattern on a daily basis, you’ll find it will be a lot easier for your little one to fall asleep. Routine is a useful way of encouraging sleep in both the young and old.