A search on the Internet will throw up copious amounts of research and benefits we derive from restful sleep. Though it seems apparent that we need good quality and quantity of sleep, it is a fact that often gets sidelined.
As a parent educator, I am frequently asked about uncooperative or disruptive behaviour in a growing child. Knowing about the child’s age, daily routine and how much sleep he gets provides us with important cues on overt behaviour. It is important to draw attention to the amount of sleep a child is getting. In today’s rushed way of life, most children under the age of 7 years have a routine akin to that of an adult office goer. Their day is filled with activities and classes leaving little time to unwind. By the end of the day these children may seem energetic and if we look keenly there is a rising crankiness in them due to overtiredness. They push their body to keep going as hormones like adrenaline get released. The release of these hormones makes children unable to recognise tiredness to fall asleep. What these children need is to get age appropriate rests or naps and parents must ensure they go to bed before they cross the threshold into over tiredness.
Whether we have a baby, toddler or a teenager, here are questions we can ask ourselves.
Is my child getting enough sleep? There are resources available online which suggest the amount of sleep required according to the child’s age. Though each child is unique, these can give us a fair idea of the average sleep time required. Knowing amount of sleep required and the time children need to wake up in the morning, one can easily work backwards to set an appropriate bedtime. We may need to make some lifestyle adjustments to support sleep time routine in children. Example: We may restrict night family outings to weekends. Helping over tired children to wind down is important as once they are calm, they sleep enough and behaviour gets regulated.
Is my child getting restful, good quality sleep? Good quality sleep is when one wakes up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. We as parents can contribute to children having a restful sleep by — putting away TV/gadgets at least 90 minutes before bedtime, providing children with a nutritious dinner not loaded with sugary food and giving children at least an hour to calm their system. This is called winding down and could include soft lights, soft music, reading to them, restricting any active or high energy play, talking to them in gentle, quiet tones. Once relaxed, they can get into a state which releases the calming hormone helping them to fall asleep. Being in a calm state of mind ourselves also helps. Research shows that having calm parents helps children calm down quicker.
This holds true for teenagers as well. Their brain may be on overdrive for most of the day and the ability to slow down the brain activity is essential to learn to relax.
Sleep is the time when the body is repairing, building and rejuvenating. Research indicates that in babies, brain synapses are being formed and strengthened during sleep. It isn’t much different when we grow older. During sleep our cells regenerate and our immune system gets a boost. Adequate sleep is essential for good physical and mental health!
The writer is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organisation which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families. To know about our programmes and give your comments, do write to us on firstname.lastname@example.org