A few years ago, I wrote this article and I feel it is as relevant then as it is now. The vast majority of our children, and indeed adults, are technologically connected for more hours than they are not. While our technologies bring many advantages, it can impact upon our relationships, our perceptions of society, exercise and indeed our sleep.
Healthy living requires a healthy mind, body and spirit – we all know this to be true. Essential to mental health and physical well-being is a good night’s sleep.
Children have one thing in common – no two are ever the same! When it comes to school routines and those in the home, some children adapt easier than others. One of the most important routines is getting to bed on time.
Getting to bed in good time often comes down to routines. The request to stay up just two minutes more, the pleading for you to read just one more book (for the third time) or the use of technology late in the evening, can all throw out routines and result in disruptive sleep patterns.
Any factor that decreases the quantity or quality of sleep that a child receives may lead to difficulty with performance at school and may even lead to behavioural problems, as a consequence of fatigue. Research has suggested that the increased availability of technology to younger children has resulted in detrimental sleep patterns. Further, this research has suggested that a regular bedtime was the most consistent predictor of positive developmental outcomes in four-year olds. The research highlighted that language, reading and math scores were higher in children whose parents reported that they enforced regular bedtimes.
The number of hours sleep recommended for children varies by age. In general, 5-year olds should get between 11-12 hours’ sleep; 9-year olds, 10-11 hours’ sleep; and 10-year olds at least 9 hours. If your child is not alert or able to function properly throughout the day, the bedtime routine should be adjusted to provide the opportunity for more sleep.
To enable children to get a better night’s sleep, exciting or high energy activities should be avoided within one hour of going to bed. Pre-bedtime activities like taking a bath, brushing their teeth, and reading a book often signal to the brain, that sleep time is nearly here. Playing on the iPad or using technology whilst in bed is a sure recipe for poor sleep.
Insufficient sleep and poor sleep habits have been linked to health problems including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, moodiness, irritability, reduced memory function and delayed reaction times.
It is often difficult to set up and maintain these routines, or convince adolescents that they need more sleep, but it is an important part of a balanced daily routine. One of the challenges for us as parents is that we too need time for sleep. This is often very difficult with so many demands on our time, but it is an investment in our own health – one for us all to reflect upon!
These are important things to consider. It is essential that we re-establish sleep routines at the beginning of the year.