Prioritizing Sleep for Busy Kids – Rest Required Despite School & SportsReading Time: 4 minutes
Now that young people are back to school, athletics and extracurricular activities are in full swing. For parents of busy kids, it can be tempting to push back bedtime to accommodate everything.
Between classes, homework, sports practice, after-school jobs, and time on the bus or in the car from one thing to another, children and teens are busier than ever. With a schedule full of school and extracurricular activities, there can be little time for rest during the week. Should parents push bedtime later to make sure their kids can do it all?
Sleep experts say that is not a great idea. While football, dance, piano lessons, and student government are enriching and important to their physical, cognitive, and social development, they also require a rested body and mind. Skimping on sleep can actually decrease school and athletic performance. In the long-term, a lack of sleep may have a harmful effect on grades and skills on the stage or sports field.
How Much Sleep Do Kids & Teens Need?
Teenagers need around nine hours of quality sleep. Yet, few actually sleep this much on a regular basis. Most teens today are functioning with mild to severe sleep deprivation, according to the Child Mind Institute. The natural sleep pattern in this age range is similar to that of an adult. They tend to want to go to bed later and wake up later than the school start time allows. In addition to a busy schedule, this can make it difficult for teens to get enough sleep during the school year.
School-aged kids need even more rest. On average, they should get about 10 hours of sleep each night. Experts recommend that children in the age range of 6 – 13 get between 9 – 11 hours of sleep.
What Are Signs that Your Kid Needs More Sleep?
Getting a good night’s rest is imperative to staying healthy, feeling good, and doing well in school. If you struggle to wake your child up in the morning and he or she is noticeably sluggish while getting ready for school, this may be a sign that more sleep is needed. For parents who rouse their child multiple times to get out of bed, this should be a red flag.
Recent studies have also revealed the importance of sleep for mental health among teens. Research shows a link between sleep deprivation and an increased risk of anxiety and depression for adolescents.
Additionally, a decline in academic performance can be a sign of poor sleep or sleep deprivation. Tired students may have trouble keeping their grades up, staying awake during class, and getting to school on time. Especially during the high school years, exams and standardized test scores can reflect a lack of sleep.
In addition, a chronic lack of sleep can manifest in:
- Mood swings, irritability, frustration, and outbursts of anger;
- Behavior problems;
- Difficulty paying attention, remembering things, and learning;
- Slow recall and reaction time;
- Less creativity;
- Drowsy driving;
- Lack of energy and alertness;
- Weak immune system;
- Tardiness or excessive absences from school.
Adequate, good quality sleep is important for virtually every aspect of a healthy life. Parents know their children best, so pay attention for signs that they may be overly tired or fatigued.
What Can You Do to Help Your Child Sleep Better?
Back-to-school time can be a great chance to re-evaluate the family’s schedule and habits. Prioritizing sleep is important for growing children, and their parents or caregivers. Here are some guidelines for putting healthy habits in place.
Stick to a Regular Bedtime Routine
Often people, including teens and kids, cannot fall asleep immediately. Though they are surely tired after a long school day and plenty of exercise, the body needs some time to gradually ease into restful sleep. Having the ability to relax and go through a regular bedtime routine can help make this time of day less stressful for the entire family. Be as consistent as possible in starting the bedtime routine at the same time every evening.
Limit Screen Time Before Bed
Recent research tells us that watching TV, using smartphones, and playing video games before bed contributes to sleep loss. Blue light produced by screens – computers, tablets, televisions, and cellphones – delays the release of melatonin and there is evidence that it interferes with the natural circadian rhythm. Plus, the content of movies, shows, and games can be stimulating, rather than relaxing. In this way, technology can really work against families as they try to wrap up the day.
Parents who are concerned about the amount and quality of sleep their children get should limit screen time before bed. Experts recommend putting electronic devices away one to two hours before bedtime.
Cut Back on Caffeine
Kids should not drink a lot of caffeine anyway; as a stimulant, it increases blood pressure and heart rate, while causing jitteriness and nervousness. Though caffeine consumption is on the rise, the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that adolescents should avoid energy drinks and kids under the age of 12 should not drink any caffeinated beverages. For older kids, the recommended guideline is 85 to 100 mg per day. At any age, it is best to avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening.
Make the Bedroom a Good Environment for Sleep
The bedroom should be a cool, dark, and quiet space. Make sure that your child’s room has good ventilation and effective window coverings. Try to keep electronic devices and television out of the room as these create unnecessary interruptions and distractions.
Contact Sleep Health Solutions
We are here to help. If you have questions about testing, diagnosis or treatment for sleep disorders, contact Sleep Health Solutions in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio at (330) 923-0228 or request a consultation through our website.