Sleep, Appetite, and Food Cravings
Willpower may be involved in controlling appetite and food cravings, but it has nothing over natural biological processes. The sleep-deprived body increases the amount of hunger hormone released. Consequently, when you’re tired, you feel hungrier even if you’re not burning more calories. And, while you’re busy eating more, the body releases less satiety hormone, which means it takes longer for your brain to get the “full” signal.
Not only are you prone to eat more when you’re tired, but the kinds of foods you choose change too. A 2016 study found that cutting sleep from 8.5 to 4.5 hours caused participants to choose snacks foods with 50 percent more calories and twice the fat. It was found that the brain’s “reward” center goes into overdrive when it encounters high-fat, sugary foods. Essentially, those cookies and candies that kids already want to become almost irresistible.
If adults who have more self-control than kids can’t make good food choices when they’re tired, how can kids?
Sleep Increases Motivation to Exercise
Studies have shown that getting adequate sleep is a good predictor of next day exercise. For kids, exercise is all about fun. But if they’re tired and fatigued, any activity can lose its appeal. Even kids who love an organized sport or playing with friends at the park are going to lose their motivation if they’re low on sleep.
The secondary benefit of regular exercise is that it can help wear kids out so they’re more tired at night. A child that’s spent an hour or two running around outside will fall asleep faster than one who has been sedentary all afternoon.
Ways to Build Healthy Sleep Habits
The quality of the sleep cycle heavily depends on personal habits and behaviors. That gives you the power to help your child develop sleep habits now that will serve him for a lifetime.
Make the Bedroom Comfortable: The sleep environment is a good place to start. For kids, it’s important to have this space be as distraction-free as possible. Put toys away and limit the number of books and stuffed animals in bed. It’s also a good idea to remove all electronic devices, including televisions and iPads. Make sure the bed itself is comfortable. The mattress should support your child’s preferred sleep style and growing body while being free from any tags, lumps, or uncomfortable valleys.
Limit Screen Time: Not only should electronics be moved out of the bedroom, but their use should be monitored as bedtime draws near. Electronics can give off a bright blue light that suppresses sleep hormones. It can take two to three hours for these effects to fully wear off so cut screen time early in the evening for a successful bedtime.
Create a Soothing Bedtime Routine: Your child’s brain works by recognizing predictable patterns of behavior. A routine helps it start the sleep cycle at the correct time every night. Bedtime routines also give your child the opportunity to bring his energy level down before crawling into bed. Easing the transition from awake and active to quiet and calm can help reduce the time it takes to fall asleep.
The ability to make and reach health goals requires a well-rounded approach that includes a focus on adequate sleep. Small, continual efforts to create good sleep habits will help your child eat better, exercise more, and live an active lifestyle. It all works together to help him become a well adjusted, fully functional adult.
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