Erika Long is a freelance health and wellness writer who shared with Healthy Lombard that it can be difficult to get kids into a consistent sleep routine. With increasing pressure at school, hyperactive minds, and distractions such as televisions and mobile devices, it’s hard for kids to calm down enough to relax and sleep. When children resist sleeping, it is easy to throw in the towel and just say, “They’re kids, they’ll be fine.” But several studies show that sleep deprivation is detrimental to their health. Here are five benefits to creating healthy sleep habits in your kids.
1. Boosts Immunity
If your child regularly struggles with the flu and other infections, it may be time to look into their sleep patterns. Fighting infections requires a strong immune system and although most kids are born with good immunity, chronic sleep deprivation potentially weakens the immune system as they start growing.
Studies show that in both children and adults, sufficient sleep is mandatory to release enough amounts of cytokines in the body. Cytokines are proteins that help manage inflammation through cell-to-cell communication through the body’s immune system. They also fight physiological stress caused by infections, producing a drowsy effect in the process. If your child is unwell and wants to sleep longer, let them. It is their body’s natural defense mechanism working hard to restore their health.
Research carried out in recent times also shows that sleep apnea in children is caused by disrupting the body’s natural defense mechanism, causing vulnerability in terms of contracting short-term, frequent illnesses.
2. Promotes growth hormones
One of the reasons behind the rapid growth in infants is the secretion of human growth hormone during their long hours of sleep. Growth spurts tend to decrease as children grow older, yet most young children in their growing years tend to wake up taller some mornings because of the growth hormones released during their sleep the previous evening.
Conversely, if sleep is disrupted, production in childhood growth hormone could be sufficiently reduced to make children grow into shorter adults. Being tall depends on many factors, including genes, but children have the best chance at growth when they get adequate amounts of sleep.
Recent studies have shown growth hormones are at their peak just after the onset of sleep, especially in infants. Hence, the first sleep cycle is extremely important for the healthy growth in children.
3. Affects weight
Obesity in kids could have multiple underlying causes and although some of them are genetic and less under their control, there is one factor that is manageable: sleep.
Studies have shown that when children sleep less than the required number of hours, including infants, it affects the production of the hormone leptin. Leptin is secreted by the body’s fat cells as a signal when the body is supposed to stop eating. Naturally, if this hormone is disrupted, children might not realize when they have eaten enough. Binge snacking on sugars and other unhealthy carbs also arise due to a lack of sleep. Consequently, weight gain is inevitable when there is a hormone imbalance.
A balanced diet is ideal for a healthy sleep cycle, and vice versa. Hence, parents need to let their children sleep enough in addition to providing nutritious meals, all of which begins in infancy. According to new research, children who are predisposed to obesity due to genetics or other health factors, have an even more significant need for sound sleep.
4. Reduces attention deficiency
Do your children have difficulty concentrating? Are they impatient and moody? Does nothing seem to improve their attention span? Before jumping to conclusions, let’s look at their sleep patterns.
Too little sleep could cause symptoms similar to ADHD, and hence misdiagnosis is common. On the other hand, if they do suffer from ADHD, sleep might be elusive and becomes even more crucial to their health.
How can you tell whether your child has ADHD? Well, in many cases, changing sleep habits so that they are getting enough sleep has immediate effects on their performance in school, interactions with others, and will also balance their behavior. In such scenarios, it might be possible to rule out ADHD.
However, if your child has difficulty sleeping even after following good sleep hygiene, and is hyperactive and impulsive, then these might be symptoms of ADHD and it’s best to seek professional help and look at possible alternative treatments to rebalancing their brains.
5. Promotes brain development
A child’s brain begins to develop in the womb and continues into early adulthood. Studies show that a healthy sleep pattern has positive influences on cognitive growth.
Have you ever noticed a baby twitching when they are fast asleep? When a child is asleep, the brain periodically checks the coordination with the muscles of the body, and hence the twitching. Several other experiments conducted on babies have indicated that when certain repeated actions were performed near the baby when they were asleep, unknowingly they learned to develop a reaction to the phenomenon, which could be seen later when they were awake.
In older kids, it has been seen that nap time plays a major role in cognitive functioning. Children who take a siesta every day tend to have a better memory than children who do not. So, the next time you catch your child napping, let them be. If you forcibly wake them, you could be disrupting a fine learning process that is developing in their brain. Some studies have further shown a connection between sleep apnea in kids and a lack of mental development.
What Can You Do as a Parent?
Firstly, let children be children but also institute a required bedtime and good sleep hygiene habits. Be consistent and vigilant. It may be difficult given extra-curricular activities, gadgets, and the constant pressure to remain above peers, however, at the end of the day, your child’s health and character development matter more and sleep is a crucial need that must be made a priority for their development.
About the author:
Erika Long loves corgis, curry and comedy. Always searching for the next great snuggle, flavor or laugh, she inspires people to live their best life now. When not writing, Erika can be found at her local brewery dominating Harry Potter trivia night.