Sleep is an integral part of children’s health. Amazing things happen while they sleep, including bursts in physical growth and solidification of learning. Studies show that a good night’s sleep helps buoy moods, improve cognitive performance, and build the body’s resilience against illness and accidents. Problems with sleep are parts of major mental illnesses, including mood disorders. Some scientists suggest that depression is linked to prolonged REM sleep. There is also a growing body of evidence suggesting that ADHD may stem from “a sleepy brain.” Specialists have said that as many as 40% of children who meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD also meet criteria for a sleep disorder.
An article from the Wall Street Journal reviews findings that link sleep problems with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, aggression, learning problems, and obesity.
Good sleep hygiene is a must. It is also the first place to start when you notice patterns of childhood misbehavior or under-performance. Sleep hygiene includes:
- Routine: Regular, predictable soothing activities cue the brain that sleep is on the way. Reading, baths, relaxing music, calm activities, low lights, soft pajamas—integrate these into a pattern for your child. Start 1 hour before sleep is to begin.
- Children need more than 8 hours of sleep per night. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends the following sleep guidelines:
- Infants: 14 to 15 hours
- Toddlers: 12 to 14 hours
- Preschoolers: 11 to 13 hours
- School-age kids: 10 to 11 hours
- Teenagers: 9 to 10 hours
- Turn off electronic media 2 hours before bed. Studies show that children with TVs and video games in their rooms get less sleep. Cell phones (including texts, email, games, and other apps) can also rob many teenagers of a good night’s sleep.