Pediatric researchers suggest that:
‘Sleep is as vital to good health in children as is good nutrition and exercise’.
This is the foundation of the Deep Sleep Mantra. In order to ensure deep sleep habits in our children, we need to understand how and why lack of deep sleep can harm our children’s health.
A lack of ‘Deep Sleep’ can leave your child exposed to a number of health risks, such as:
Lower Growth Levels
During sleep, neurotransmitters communicate in the body to filter out disease-causing toxins, thus making children less likely to fall sick. Moreover, the growth hormone is primarily secreted during deep sleep. In a study conducted by Italian scientists, it was discovered that those children who slept less deeply than average children, did have a decrease in their growth level.
Increased Risk of Diabetes, Obesity and Heart Disease
Deep sleep helps refrain from future illnesses and injuries. Lack of sleep is not good for the little hearts as well! According to sleep specialists, children who do not get good deep sleep at night have excessive brain arousal during sleep that increases their blood glucose and cortisol levels and keeps it elevated thus increasing their risk of diabetes, obesity and even heart disease. Since children get clumsier and impulsive when they do not get enough sleep they also end up getting more injuries, as they are more susceptible to accidents.
A Sedentary Lifestyle and Therefore, Weight Gain
Worn out kids also eat differently than those children who are well-rested. Research has shown that, like adults, children who are tired crave for higher-carb or higher-fat foods than healthy nutritious foods. Additionally, tired children are more sedentary and less active. Therefore they burn fewer calories and put on excess weight easily.
Increased Mood Swings and Cranky Behaviour
It is noteworthy that children can quickly fall in the danger zone of sleep deprivation. The side effects of sleep deprivation can be visible in a child/teenager soon after almost 3 or 4 days of an inconsistent sleep pattern if you allow them to watch a world series or late night film (etc.). Insufficient sleep causes children to see the world in a more negative than positive light.
Poor Performance in School
Lack of deep sleep causes mood swings in children and more rapid reactions to minor problems, making them less likely to think before they act. It also adversely affects their attention span in class. According to research, children that do not get sufficient sleep at night are more likely to be overactive and non-compliant as well as anxious and withdrawn.
Where Did We, As Parents, Go Wrong?
It is not easy to ensure disciplined bedtime schedules when parents work long hours and pack elaborate after-school activities for their children into their every day schedule. By the end of the day, it is almost impossible to expect everyone in the family to go to bed at an ideal time.
Though today’s parents understand the need for exercise and an introduction of a good, balanced, nutritious diet, most of them fail to realize or accomplish the task of making sure that their children can get into bed on time to reap the benefits of deep sleep, that is so important for their overall mental and physical development.
So What Can I Do Now?
Parents should try to introduce the following measures to attain the goal of good sleep habits in their children.
- Create a firm and regular sleep routine where children go to bed every day at almost the same time. Make sure that bedtime is no later than 9pm as studies suggest that children who sleep after 9pm take longer to fall asleep, wake more often at night and hence, get less sleep overall.
- Try to keep the same temperature, level of comfort and light in your children’s rooms even when on vacation to help them sleep better.
- Keep away electronic devices after dinner and especially in the children’s rooms after 9pm. Ask them to read a book or try to read a story to them to help them go to sleep.
- Run a sleep audit every week on your children especially when you see troubled behavior patterns like dozing off in front of the TV, snoring at night or becoming more grouchy or moody!