Sleep is a powerful thing. To be at our best each day and live healthy, happy lives, committing to healthy sleep habits is crucial—and it is never too early to start. Knowing their sleep needs and sticking to a regular schedule ensure that children will have a healthy relationship with sleep that will carry over into their adulthood.
According to Dr. Michael Uzelac of Sleep Airway Solutions in Valparaiso, all of the body’s systems are repaired and all of our hormones are produced during quality sleep.
“Failure to get sufficient quality sleep adversely affects every system of a child’s body and development,” Dr. Uzelac said. “That’s why it’s vital to know how much sleep a child needs at different stages of their lives.”
It’s recommended that children ages two months to 12 months get anywhere from 12 to 16 hours of sleep a day, while one to two-year-olds need 11 to 14 hours. As a child ages, the amount of sleep needed each day decreases; three to five-year-olds should get 10 to 13 hours, six to 12-year-olds need nine to 12 hours, and 13 to 18-year-olds need eight to 10 hours. Once they reach adulthood, the recommended number of hours drops to around seven or eight a night.
“Along with the number of hours of sleep they need, children need regular bedtimes, even on the weekend,” Dr. Uzelac said. “Regular bedtime routines help prepare children for quality sleep and should be maintained to get the best results.”
Uzelac went on to explain that kids who do not regularly get quality sleep in the proper amounts can be at high risk for health issues like impaired brain development, ADHD, mood disorders, morning headaches, and increased respiratory infections. Lack of quality, regular sleep can also contribute to behavioral problems like increased risk-taking behaviors, poor performance in school, and even an increased rate of motor vehicle accidents.
Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule is just the tip of the iceberg. Teaching your child healthy habits at an early age ensures they not only get their age group’s recommended amount of sleep, but also that sleep is comfortable and uninterrupted.
“A child’s room, just as an adult’s, should be as dark, quiet, and comfortable as possible. This sets up the best possible environment for sleep,” Dr. Uzelac said. “Sleep masks and earplugs for older children can also be helpful when darkness and quiet are difficult to attain.”
Before bedtime, certain foods and activities should be avoided that may interfere with our body’s natural hormone levels. Sugar, caffeine, and lots of liquids can make it difficult for children to fall and stay asleep.
“Caffeine blocks adenosine, which is the chemical that creates sleep pressure, while sugar raises your energy storage, thus keeping you from being tired,” Dr. Uzelac said. “Too much liquid before bed increases the need to urinate during the night, thus interrupting sleep.”
“Snoring in children should be taken very seriously and should be addressed by a pediatrician, pediatric sleep specialist, and or dentist,” Dr. Uzelac continued.
He emphasized the effect blue light has on our body’s natural melatonin production, saying how certain activities like too much screen time can prevent children and adults from falling asleep in the first place.
“Computer screens, cell phones, and tablets emit blue light which can shut down melatonin production,” he continued. “Melatonin is the hormone that makes us sleepy.”
When it comes to healthy sleep habits, setting up your child for successful nights of sleep starts early. For more information about Sleep Airway Solutions, visit the website at https://www.sleepairwaysolutions.com/.