Did you know that March 14-20 is Sleep Awareness Week? Established by the National Sleep Foundation, this annual event seeks to educate the public about the importance of sleep health and encourage them to prioritize sleep. It’s a worthy goal. After all, optimal sleep can impact your health, safety, well-being, and more. Sleep is essential for people of all ages, but it’s especially crucial for children. Although we know it can sometimes be struggle, there are many reasons why parents are encouraged to get their kids to bed early. Scroll down to explore the importance of sleep for kids.
The Importance of Sleep for Kids
Sleep promotes healthy growth.
In the first few months of your child’s life, it may feel like they’re a little heavier each time you pull them out of their crib. And in fact, you might be right! Growth hormones are secreted during deep sleep, and babies spend about 50 percent of their day in a state of deep sleep. And of course, this growth doesn’t stop when your child graduates to a “big-kid” bed. All children are constantly growing, and sleep plays an essential role in their growth and development. Without sufficient high-quality sleep, your child may experience issues with their physical or mental development.
Sleep impacts a child’s attention and alertness.
We all know what it’s like to attend an important class or meeting while sleep deprived. Without a healthy sleep schedule, we aren’t able to function optimally when we’re awake. When children don’t get enough sleep, they struggle to focus at school and have short attention spans. In fact, the symptoms of sleep deprivation and ADHD are almost identical. In addition, research shows that children who consistently sleep less than 10 hours per night before age three are three times more likely to have issues with hyperactivity and impulsivity by age six (source). So when you think about the importance of sleep for kids, don’t just worry about grogginess and fatigue. Hyperactive, impulsive, and distracted kids are often showing symptoms of sleep deprivation as well.
Even a small amount of sleep deprivation can have a big impact on a child’s ability to pay attention in school. According to research, just 27 additional minutes of sleep can make it easier for some children to manage their mood and focus on schoolwork.
Sleep is critical for learning and memory.
According to an article on Parents.com, “Sleep is as important as nutrition and exercise. It’s when the body repackages neurotransmitters, chemicals that enable the brain cells to communicate.” A lack of sleep can impact your child’s cognitive performance, including their vocabulary acquisition and memory (source). To give your child the best possible chance of success at school, establish a firm bedtime (as well as nap times for younger children).
Sleep affects a child’s risk of obesity.
Did you know there’s a strong connection between sleep and weight management? When we eat enough food, our bodies produce the hormone leptin, which tells us it’s time to stop eating. Sleep deprivation also impacts leptin, however, making it more likely that a person will overeat (source). Furthermore, when people are tired, they’re more likely to make poor nutritional choices and be more sedentary. This is true of children and adults alike!
Sleep directly impacts a child’s mood.
A lack of sleep can cause a child to be moody and irritable, which can impact their performance at school and their social life. In addition, poor sleep in childhood has been linked to anxiety and depression (source). Poor sleep in childhood can follow a person for the rest of their life, producing long-term effects on their mental health. A little extra shut-eye now, in your child’s adolescence, can go a long way toward preparing them for a healthy future.
It may not seem like a big deal to let your child go to sleep a little later, wake up a little earlier, or (depending on their age) miss a mid-day nap, but those hours add up and can have a big impact on your child’s health, mood, development, and more. Prioritize your child’s sleep, as well as your own.
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