The Benefits of Better Sleep for Kids

Did you know sleep is actually as important as nutrition and physical activity when it comes to children’s health? Unfortunately due to early school start times, increasing amounts of homework and technological distractions like TV, tablets, video games, and phones; it can be difficult for kids to get enough sleep.

Research suggests that sleepy kids are more than just grumpy. Kids who don’t get enough sleep are prone to serious health concerns. By creating healthy sleep habits, and ensuring your kids are getting enough sleep, you can prevent the following health problems.

  • Lower immunity: Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick when exposed to a virus.
  • Anxiety: Inadequate sleep is related to anxiety due to increased stress hormone, cortisol.
  • Obesity: Lack of sleep is associated with overeating, and can also affect hormones that relate to appetite.
  • Behavioral Problems: Overtired kids have reduced executive function, which means a decreased attention span and emotional control.
  • Lack of sleep can affect motor skills potentially leading to accidents and injuries, which can be especially dangerous for sleepy teens driving.

How can you encourage healthy sleep habits?

Limit screen time before bed. Turn the screens off at least 1 hour before bedtime. This makes it easier to start winding down. Research has shown that the light from screens makes it difficult for the brain to get ready to sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping screens out of kid’s bedrooms.

Routines are important in preparing to rest at night. Using the same routine every night (for example, bath, brush teeth, read a book, then bed) can also be helpful in winding down and preparing to sleep. Try to keep bedtime the same time each night, and avoid a much later bedtime on the weekends. Big shifts in bedtime on the weekends can make it harder to have an early bedtime on school nights.

Getting physical activity during the day can make it easier to sleep at night, and activities like yoga can be beneficial in relaxing before bed.

If you find your older kids are feeling anxious before bedtime, research shows that journaling can be helpful in reducing stress before bed. For kids not old enough to journal on their own, discussing a few positive things that happened during the day can help them to relax and get ready to sleep.

How much sleep do your kids need?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following sleep hours (per 24 hours, including naps).

Age Sleep Recommendation
Infants 4 months-12 months 12 to 16 hours (total, including naps)
Children 1-2 years 11 to 14 hours (total, including naps)
Children 3-5 years 10 to 13 hours (total, including naps)
Children 6-12 years 9 to 12 hours
Teens 13- 18 years 8 to 10 hours

Remember, adequate sleep can improve behavior and emotional regulation and decrease the risk of depression, anxiety, obesity, diabetes, and injuries. Similar to nutrition, starting good sleep habits early (while not easy in the moment), will pay off in the long run.

If your family is interested in making healthy lifestyle changes, the CPCMG W.E.L.L. Clinic can help. W.E.L.L. Clinic providers and health coaches are here to support your family in improving nutrition, physical activity, sleep, and emotional wellbeing habits.  To schedule an appointment, please call 760-633-3640 or ask your pediatrician for more information about the W.E.L.L. Clinic.