No matter how many activities you made your child sign up for, whether they’re physically draining ones such as football and swimming, or emotionally and mentally demanding ones such as music and arts, trying to make them as active and as productive as possible, you may be missing on something very important: your child’s sleep. Rather than filling their day with countless activities, you may want to focus more on their sleeping schedule and their sleeping habits as those are much more important for their health and their well being. They don’t need an expensive, high-quality adjustable bed; all they need is a decent mattress and a quiet environment to help them fall asleep.
It has been shown that sleep is essential for the growth of your child as well as their emotional and physical condition. Besides, it is a well known fact that lack of sleep leads to mood swings, anxiety, obesity, etc., which you would want to avoid at all costs for your child.
Let’s see further why sleep is so important for your child!
The link between sleep, appetite and weight gain (or weight loss)
A study has been done to prove the relationship between sleep and appetite. The experiment consisted in not allowing a bunch of children to sleep for more than three hours for a day. Even naps were forbidden. What was noticed was that the children had almost a quarter more of calories then usually took. And the day after, despite their sleeping habits going back to normal, they still kept consuming more food than usual.
Further than that, the study has shown that the risk of obesity went up the less a child slept, where as the more a child slept and the less likely they were to be overweight. Another study has shown that children who got less sleep for a week were at least 5 times more likely to suffer from obesity than those who got the amount of sleep they needed.
Research explained this whole connection between food and sleep through two reasons:
- When children get the amount of sleep they need, they prevent their appetite hormone also known as ghrelin from increasing in their blood, while they keep the production of the satiety hormone called leptin balanced. Both of these hormones are released during sleep. So without enough sleep, your child will naturally have the rate of ghrelin production increasing while that of leptin production decreasing.
- The second reason is much less scientific but as much logical: the more your child will stay awake, and the more likely they are to pass by the kitchen for a quick snack on their way to their bed.
Benefits of sleep for young children
Sleep enables your child’s brain to process information
All what you child learns throughout the day, such as basic mathematics or a new polite expression, is processed by their brain and stored into their memory during their sleep. What isn’t needed is deleted, and what is necessary is saved in their memory. This actually explain babies’ need to be asleep most of the time; after being born, they are in contact with so much knowledge and new things that they exceedingly need more sleep compared to everyone else. It is because during REM sleep, the areas of your brain responsible for learning and memory are heavily stimulated and much more alert and reactive due to the countless connections formed between neurons.
One effective way to see how much sleep can help with memory and learning is by checking your child’s grade after sleeping well on a regular basis. You’ll be surprised by how much they will improve!
This is why reading before bed is a highly recommended activity for not only adults, but also kids.
Focusing and concentration skills improve with sleep
Throughout the day, your child uses « functional » skills such as time management, learning and memory skills, as well as focusing and socializing. What is important to know is that the level of those skills is tightly linked to sleep. It actually has been shown that children who suffer from lack of sleep tend to act the exact same way as children who suffer from a psychological disorder called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder which causes some children to be constantly hyperactive. Which simply means that the less your child sleep, and the more likely they are to be hyperactive and unable to focus or concentrate. And that is why it is of the utmost importance for your kid to sleep as much as they need, and why not as much as possible (without going overboard of course).
Part II of this article will be published soon.