Improve your child's sleep - improve your mood
Updated: Jan 20
What happens when we sleep?
Every night, almost everyone on the planet enters into a state of unconsciousness and mental paralysis. But what is really happening inside the body when we drift off? And what's the impact if we don't get enough sleep?.
Sleep is regulated by your circadian rhythm or body clock located in the brain. The body clock responds to light cues, ramping up production of the hormone melatonin at night and switching it off when it senses light. There are four stages of sleep that the body experiences in cycles throughout the night. On a good night, we cycle through these stages four or five times.
Stages one and two are light sleep. This is a transition from being awake to falling asleep. Heart rate and breathing begin to slow, body temperature falls, and muscles may twitch. Stage three is sometimes referred to as delta sleep because of the slow delta brainwaves that are released during this stage. This is the first stage of deep sleep, where our cells produce the most growth hormone to service bones and muscles, allowing the body to repair itself. Stage four is where we begin to dream. The body creates chemicals that render it temporarily paralysed so that we do not act out our dreams
Importance of Sleep
Sleep is vital to your well-being. In fact, studies show that getting enough good quality sleep is as essential to your overall health, as eating well and being active. In order to understand the vital nature of sleep to children and teens health, it is important to understand what healthy sleep is and what happens when they don't get enough. Our sleep-wake cycles are regulated by light and dark, the cycles begin to develop at about six weeks and by three to six months most infants have a regular sleep-wake cycle. Believe it or not, by the age of two most children have spent more time asleep than awake. Sleep is important for children, as it directly impacts mental and physical development.
What happens when your child doesn't get enough sleep?
Many studies have shown the link between inadequate sleep and poor health outcomes.
Not getting enough good quality sleep impacts cardiovascular health, such as blood pressure and fitness level and many other health measures, including children's physical and mental health, behaviour and school performance. For teens not getting enough sleep or having sleep difficulties can limit their ability to learn, listen, concentrate and solve problems. They may even forget important information like names numbers and their homework. Lack of quality sleep can lead to aggressive or inappropriate behaviour such as yelling at friends or being impatient with teachers and family members. It can cause them to eat too much or eat unhealthy foods like sweets and deep-fried foods. Teens who don't get enough sleep can become physically or mentally unwell resulting in higher rates of motor vehicle accidents and accidental injury.
How much sleep do kids need?
The amount of sleep required varies by age it is recommended that newborns received 12 to 18 hours per day infants 14 to 15 hours, toddlers 12 to 14 hours, preschoolers 11 to 13 hours and school-age children 5 to 10 years old 10 to 11 hours per day.
What about teens?
There are distinctive changes in sleep patterns and teens fall asleep later and wake later. The onset of sleep is triggered by the release of melatonin - a hormone produced by human body. In teens, this hormone is released later in a day than in children. Teens need at least eight and a half hours of sleep each night to function at their best. Most teens do not get enough sleep. One study found that only fifteen per cent reported sleeping eight and a half hours on school nights.
Teens tend to have irregular sleep patterns across the week. They typically stay up late and sleep in late on the weekends which can affect their biological clocks and hurt the quality of their sleep.
How can we get more sleep?
Here are some ideas to be active during the day:
Physical activity can decrease stress and help people feel more relaxed. It can also help us to get a good solid sleep if we say goodnight to electronics. Experts recommend using the bedroom for sleep only. If you can't make your bedroom a tech-free zone or at least shut everything down an hour or more before lights-out, you will not only block the noises like a buzz of a text or the glare of a TV screen - you will also ensure your sleep zone is free of any equipment which can interfere with your body's brain waves on a cellular level.
Keeping a sleep routine, going to bed at the same time every night helps the body expect sleep and creates a set bedtime, which results in waking in the morning at the same time. This can enhance this relaxation effect. Early introduction of healthy sleep patterns in your children's lives will make it easier for them to sustain good habits through the teen years.
To help your child relax before sleep time, try reading listening to relaxing music, spending time with a pet or writing in a journal.