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A couple of months ago we posted our article on Safe Sleep for Babies, but sleep is equally as important for your older children and for you.

Why is sleep important?

Good sleep is essential for good health. It is as important as nutrition and exercise for everyone, both children and adults.

We know what it’s like when our children (or us!) haven’t had a good night’s sleep – it can affect their mood, behavior and ability to learn.

Research suggests there can be other implications for children’s health if they don’t regularly get adequate rest including an increased risk of developing diabetes, as well as links with concentration and attention issues.

There is also increasing evidence that a lack of sleep can contribute to children becoming overweight. This is partly because with less energy they are likely to be less active (and so burn fewer calories). And also when children (and adults) are tired, they can crave high-fat and high-carb foods which can lead to over-eating.

What’s happening when your child is asleep?

When your little one is sleeping, their body is actually busily working in many different ways.

• They’re growing! Some studies suggest that the growth hormone is secreted during periods of deep sleep, so if you think your baby has seems to have suddenly grown overnight, they possibly literally have! Of course, children are growing all the time, not just as babies and deep sleep is an important part of this process.
• They’re fighting germs! When we’re asleep, we produce cytokines, proteins which the body needs to fight infections and stress.
• They’re learning! During sleep, it is thought that the brain is busy processing and storing information

So how can you help your children sleep well at night?

• Create a consistent bedtime routine – a warm bath or bed time story can be calming, and always put your children to bed at the same time each night
• Limit electronics including the TV in the two hours before bedtime – the blue light from screens blocks the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone). This applies to you too!
• Do not have any electronics in your child’s bedroom, TV, computer, tablets etc
• Minimize excitement and energetic activities just before bedtime
• Keep your child’s room cool (60-64ºF), dark and quiet – use night lights or lamps rather than overhead lights at bed time and have blackout blinds at the window
• Don’t let your child do homework or play games in bed at bedtime – this will help train your child’s brain to associate their bed just with sleep.

How much sleep does your child need?

Newborn babies sleep up to 50% of the time. Toddlers need 11-14 hours sleep, some of which they get from day time naps. As they get older children need less sleep – on average, 5-13 year olds need around 10-11 hours.

With your children sleeping soundly, you just might find you get a good night’s sleep too…sweet dreams for all the family!


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