The more research that is done the more people realize a child’s sleep is essential to their learning and their behavior. Many children have poor sleep habits or have issues such as snoring that disrupts sleep during the years when the child’s brain is developing. We are told it is okay if they snore or you are told that they need to take medications to treat the symptoms. What your child might actually need is a sleep study.
The newest studies say that snoring in children can be an early indication of learning disabilities. Poor sleep has also been linked to inattentiveness, irritability or poor memory. These symptoms may sound familiar to some parents. Evaluating your child’s sleep can be very easy.
You start with keeping a sleep diary to see how much sleep your child is getting. You should also include any out of the ordinary activities and their caffeine intake. It is easier to see if there is an issue when you have something concrete to look at. This can be done on a simple piece of paper or you can download a sleep diary for free from the internet.
Consider the age of your child. Children need different amounts of sleep depending on their age. It can also change depending on whether or not they are getting ready to grow. Since growth hormone is produced predominantly during sleep a child who is about to have a significant growth spurt will want to sleep more often and for longer periods of time?
Listen to your child. If they can not make it until bedtime without a significant meltdown than maybe bedtime is too late or maybe they need a short afternoon nap. A school age child might benefit from a 20 minute nap when they get home from school to help them to recharge. They may not need to take a nap all the time but they may need it because they are growing physically or they are learning a great deal and their brain may need to rest so they can process everything they learned.
Create a good sleep environment for your child. Their bedroom should not be cluttered and there should be minimal light prior to bed. The computer, television and cell phone can disrupt the brain’s ability to produce Melatonin, the hormone that tells your body it is time to sleep, and keep you from falling asleep in a timely manner.
Remember that you are in charge. Children will naturally see your request for them to go to bed as something to challenge. It is up to you to set the limits needed for them to grow and learn. Once they see there is no arguing, a hard lesson for us parents to learn, they will understand it is bedtime and will stop arguing.
In the end we all want what is best for our children and for them to be successful at school. The best thing we can do for them is to teach them that sleep is an essential part of their life and that they can use it as a tool to be healthy and to be successful in school.