As a mom you’re more than a little concerned about your children’s health. You work diligently to make wise health decisions, like breastfeeding, to ensure your kids have the healthiest start in life. New studies show that getting enough sleep is as important for children as a wholesome diet and plenty of exercise. The benefits of sleep for kids go well beyond having energy; they are related to every aspect of your child’s holistic health.
Sleep, or lack of it, is one of the biggest issues new parents face. Babies don’t always mind the sun and moon’s schedule and finding a sleeping groove can be difficult for some families. But establishing healthy sleep routines is critical to your child’s health as he grows and develops.
Sleep is the time when our bodies rest and recuperate from the hustle and bustle of daily activity. Not only are we relaxing our muscles, bones, cells, tissues and organs, but we’re also allowing our brains to recharge the neurotransmitters that send messages throughout our bodies. Plus, sleep helps our bodies cleanse by flushing out harmful toxins that can lead to disease.
New research shows that even just a few nights of not enough sleep for children is damaging to both the front and back regions of the brain. The front part of the brain is responsible for memory but the back section is for motor planning, focus and space perception. (Interestingly, sleep deprivation typically only affects adults in the front section of the brain but children are more deeply impacted by lack of sleep.) Sleep also helps make mind-muscle connections and aids in controlling impulses for better behavior. The implications of these studies are that sleep is vital for the brain’s overall development and prolonged periods of too little sleep can cause permanent harm.
The benefits of sleep for kids are more than just brain power too. We produce germ-fighting proteins in our sleep that are especially important for kids who are exposed to a wide range of pathogens throughout their day. Also, sleep is when growth hormones are secreted crucial to adequate growth. Plus, sleep is linked to cardiovascular health and getting the recommended amount reduces your child’s risk of being overweight.
Exactly how much sleep do your children need? It depends on their age. According to the National Sleep Foundation, here’s how much sleep your kids should be getting:
Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
Infants (3 months – 1 year): 12-15 hours
Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours
School Age (6-13 years): 9-11 hours
Teens (14-17 years): 8-10 hours
If health is a priority in your home, make sleep a priority! The benefits of sleep for kids is astounding and once you get into healthier sleep habits you’ll surely see the positive changes in your kids.
Sources: Parents Magazine and The National Sleep Foundation