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Are Your Kids Getting Enough Sleep?

The fact that there is so much information out there about sleep and kids speaks to the fact that parents are not alone in their struggles to make sure their kids get enough sleep. Ellen Braaten, PhD, in “The Importance of Sleep for Kids’ Emotional Well-being,”* tells us why sleep is so important for our kids and how we can start making sure they get enough sleep.

Why is sleep so important?

  • Our brains need sleep. Brains process and consolidate our memories while we sleep. It helps our kids remember the important things in life. Sleep helps remove toxins from our brain that build up while we are awake. Without sleep, we can’t form new pathways in the brain that help us learn new things.
  • Our bodies need sleep. This is especially true for babies and younger children. Sleep is necessary for muscle growth and repair. Some growth hormones are secreted and synthesized during sleep. Poor sleep is associated with obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It also helps our immune system and we are more prone to colds when we are sleep deprived.
  • Sleep isn’t just about quantity. Quality is important, too. Poor sleep quality is associated with poorer school performance as measured by teacher ratings, grades, and neurocognitive functioning. It can make kids and adults be more moody, angry, and anxious.
  • Your kids probably need more sleep than they are getting. Most kids need 10 to 11 hours per night but get far less than that (closer to 9 ½ hours on average). There are wide individual differences in terms of a child’s sleep needs, but the AAP recommends the following guidelines:
    • Under 1 year: 12 to 16 hours a day
    • 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours a day
    • 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours a day
    • 6 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours a day
    • 13 to 18 years: 8 to 10 hours a day
  • There are significant benefits when we get enough sleep. Good quality sleep is associated with greater ability to focus. Kids are better able to solve problems, are more creative, and do better socially when they are well-rested.

How can we make sure our kids get the sleep they need?

  1. Know how much sleep they should be getting. Look at the guidelines above. There is a range for each age group, because kids do differ in their need for sleep. Figure out where in that range your child should fall and set a goal to fall within that range.
  2. Limit screen time before bed. Remove screens (tv, tablets, computers, phones) from the bedroom or sleeping area. Kids should not be exposed to the glow from electric screens for at least an hour before going to sleep. (See this article for more information about how the blue light from electronics impacts sleep issues: https://riseandshine.childrensnational.org/negative-effects-of-electronic-devices-at-bedtime/ )
  3. Stick with the same bedtimes and awake times. Try to keep bedtimes close to the same times on holidays and weekends so their bodies can develop a routine.
  4. Have a bedtime routine that includes non-stimulating activities. These might include activities like a bath or stories. Start settling down and preparing for bed at least an hour before bedtime.
  5. Provide a good environment for sleeping. Dark, quiet, and cool are the three magic words when it comes to good sleep. Some kids like a nightlight; just be sure you get one that is as dim as possible. Same goes for noise. Some kids don’t like the quiet. In that case, a noise machine or a fan (“white noise”) can be a good idea.

For more information or support, please feel free to contact the Student Support Team at Midvale Elementary 801-826-8725, or the Canyons Family Center at 801-826-8190.

*The Importance of Sleep for Kids’ Emotional Well-being, Ellen Braaten, PhD, https://www.mghclaycenter.org/parenting-concerns/the-importance-of-sleep-for-kids-mental-and-emotional-well-being-2/

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