Increasing scientific data indicates that restorative sleep is fundamental in promoting one’s overall health. This is as important to children as it is for adults. It is especially important that children get adequate sleep to promote their growth and development. Establishing healthy sleep habits and bedtime routines in childhood ensures a strong foundation as they get older.
Why is sleep important for children?
The importance of sleep for children can easily be overlooked, but the medical profession is increasingly aware that quality sleep is integral for children and teens. During sleep, the body releases growth hormones that promote tissue repair and muscle growth. Sleep plays a vital role in the child’s cognitive development and emotional regulation, as children who sleep well are more likely to perform better in school, manage their emotions, and handle stress. It also helps strengthen their immune system, helping the body produce cytokines essential for fighting off infections.
Common causes of sleep deprivation in children
Despite the benefits sleep offers, there could be challenges as to why your child may have trouble getting shut-eye. According to The Sleep and Health Laboratory at the National University of Singapore, school-age Singaporean children (ages 7-12) sleep an average of 8.4 hours per night during weekdays. In fact, 65% of these children do not meet the recommended 9 to 11 hours of sleep on school days.
Sleep deprivation in children can result from various factors, and parents and caregivers need to be aware of these common causes to address them promptly. Here are some of the primary reasons children may experience sleep deprivation:
- Having an inconsistent bedtime routine
- Consuming caffeinated beverages, like soda or food
- Excessive screen time consumption
- Nightmares and night terrors
- Sleep apnea
Tips for building effective bedtime routines
While possible sleep issues concerning bedwetting, sleep apnea or constant night terrors may require professional help, parents can still encourage effective bedtime routines for better sleep. Here are some healthy sleep habits that you can encourage for your children:
1. Consistency is key
A consistent bedtime schedule regulates your child’s internal body clock. The human body thrives on routines, and children, in particular, benefit greatly from predictability. When you constantly put your child to bed at the same time each night, their body learns to anticipate sleep, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up at the desired times.
To implement this effectively, consider setting a bedtime that aligns with your child’s natural sleep patterns. Be mindful of your child’s age and the recommended amount of sleep they need. For instance, younger children typically require more sleep than older ones. Consistency also extends to weekends and holidays, which helps maintain a stable sleep-wake cycle.
2. Create a relaxing atmosphere
Your child’s bedroom should be a haven of comfort and tranquillity, promoting relaxation and peaceful sleep. To achieve this, ensure the room is free from distractions that can disrupt their sleep. Remove electronic devices or other items that may stimulate their brain before bedtime.
Keep the room well-ventilated and at a comfortable temperature. Installing blackout curtains can also help block out external light sources, creating an ideal sleeping environment.
3. Limit screen time
The prevalence of screens in today’s digital age can be challenging to manage, but it’s crucial to limit your child’s screen time, especially before bedtime. Exposure to the blue light emitted by screens can disrupt their sleep patterns and make it harder for them to fall asleep.
Encourage your child to turn off electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime. Instead, opt for calming activities such as reading a book, drawing, or engaging in quiet play. If your child must use a screen for homework or other activities, consider using blue light filters or glasses designed to reduce the impact of the light on sleep.
4. Monitor food and drink
It’s recommended to be mindful of what your child eats and drinks in the hours leading up to bedtime. Heavy meals and caffeinated beverages can disrupt their sleep.
Avoid serving heavy or spicy foods within a few hours of bedtime. Instead, opt for a light, balanced evening meal. Also, limit their consumption of caffeine-containing drinks like soda or energy drinks, as caffeine can interfere with the ability to fall asleep.
Additionally, consider setting a specific time for the last meal or snack of the day to allow enough time for digestion before bedtime. A small, healthy snack like a banana or a glass of warm milk can sometimes promote sleep.
How Osler Health can help
At Osler Health, we understand the significance of addressing your child’s sleep needs and fostering healthy bedtime routines. When sleep issues are caused by conditions such as sleep apnea, bedwetting, or night terrors, consult our experienced children’s doctors in Singapore. We can conduct comprehensive health screenings for your children and work closely with them to address these issues. That way, your child can get sufficient, high-quality sleep for their growth and development.
If you wish to see one of our doctors for children please make your appointment today.