It is true that a child’s sleep habits can influence her success. If your child is often short of sleep, he or she may not be able to focus and learn as well as he or she could with good sleep habits. He or she may have trouble socializing if always tired.
What is Enough Sleep
The general guideline for amount of sleep needed daily is 14 hours for an infant, 12 hours for a toddler, 10 hours for school age children, and eight hour for adults. This rule is not in stone. Every child differs. Recent research has shown that middle school children may need more sleep (as much as eleven or twelve hours nightly) because they are growing faster again. One way to know if your child is getting enough sleep is if he/she wakes up automatically without being woken. This may be why kids often sleep in on weekends as a catch-up period. It is hard to tell because they also often stay up later at night.
This being said, it is helpful to a child if he/she can maintain the regular sleep patterns on the weekends. Many, but not all children, develop a circadian rhythm, which helps them go to sleep at a regular time and wake up at a regular time. It would be nice if these kids didn’t change their pattern much on the weekend.
There are all sorts of things that disturb a child’s sleep. For babies, it be hunger to begin with for their stomachs cannot hold enough food to last more than 3-4 hours. Later as they can eat more, they may be bothered by being cold, being hot, wet diapers, or illness. At some point parents (4-6 months) needs to let them fuss a little to see if they can go back to sleep without attention. Of course, if a child is crying for more than five minutes, he/she will need help.
For young children, sleep can be disturbed by illness or fear. Some kids fear the dark so a night light is helpful. Some kids sleep better with a sibling in the room. It may help to read a book about the dark. There is a Monster Under My Bed is a good one. Another suggestion is to come into your child’s room at night and talk to him/her about what looks scary in the dark. You may even have to stay with the child for awhile. At 5 to 7 years, children can start having bad dreams, sleep terrors, or even sleep walking. Try to calm them and get them back in their own bed because you don’t want to get in the habit of sleeping with you.
What an Expert Says
“In addition to feeling sleepy trough the day, sleep disturbances can have social, physical, and emotional consequences for a child,” says Ramon Cuevas, MD, pediatric neurologist and sleep medicine specialist at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children. She suggests that it is helpful to think of sleep disturbances in three categories:
- 1. Quantity: Not sleeping enough(which could include problems at bedtime and waking and not being able to go back to sleep).
- 2. Quality: Not getting a good night’s sleep(which could include breathing problems and waking frequently).
- 3. Conditions where there is a sleep disease like narcolepsy.
Another discovery of Dr. Cuevas is that children can have sleep apnea. It is rare and different than adult sleep apnea. The brain can send messages that repeatedly stop and start breathing during the night. This will mean that the child cannot get enough quality sleep during the night. Any child with this or other sleep problems may have trouble concentrating and may have mood swings. If you worry about your child having sleep apnea, observe him or her while sleeping to see if he or she stops breathing for more that one or two seconds. If concerned, take the child to a doctor and have a sleep test.
Many parents worry about the noise level in the house when children are sleeping or going to sleep. The truth is that children get use to the noise level in their home and can sleep well with that level. I have seen tired children fall to sleep with a lot of commotion going around them. It it is the sudden change of noise level that wakes a child. If your child is accustom to some talking and background noise as he/she goes to sleep, it may make him/her secure if he/she is used to it. So don’t try too hard to maintain silence while a child is sleeping .
Some older children get in the habit of sleeping with the TV or music playing. It may be started as a way to block out other background noise. This can be a bad habit as a child may need the ambient noise to sleep. Also, there may be sudden changes in the pretended background noise that wakes the child. Try to help your child learn to sleep without added help.
In conclusion, parents should help children get enough sleep and develop good sleep habits. It will influence their health, social interactions, and ability to focus and learn. A child’s sleep habits influence her success.