My Sleeping Beauties

It’s well known that a lack of sleep can lead to irritability, crankiness and impatience but you did you know that a lack of sleep has also been linked to weight gain? For children, it’s even more important as sleep releases growth hormones which encourage healthy growth and development. Sleeping also helps their brains and the process of making sense of the day’s events, the things they learned in school and the fun they had with friends. All of that in a good night’s sleep.

a sleeping boy and his teddy bearWith 1 in 4 children now overweight, researchers have been looking at the role played by sleep in children’s health and some of the findings are revealing:  

  • Short sleep appears to influence the hormones in the body associated with the regulation of hunger and appetite
  • Being awake for longer may provide increased opportunities to eat
  • Lack of sleep may lead to daytime fatigue and being less active as a result

For all these reasons it’s important to encourage regular sleeping patterns for children and while there’s no magic number, the following is a good guide:

Age

Hours of sleep

Under 5’s

More than 11 hours

5 to 10 year olds

10 hours or more

10 +

9 hours or more

While this is all well and good, it’s often a struggle trying to get kids to bed never mind to sleep. Lots of kids don’t want to go and I’m not sure whether it’s because they think they’re missing out on something – as an Aunt, my experience of seeing their little faces sneaking a peak through the bannisters tells me they would prefer to stay up with me than go to bed at all.

If you’re finding it a struggle getting your kids to settle down at night, here are a couple of tips which might help:

  • Set a regular bedtime routine as this can help your child get the right amount of sleep. By sticking to a similar time for going to be and waking up, children’s body’s will be able to settle into a routine.
  • Try to avoid late night TV viewing or video games and don’t have a TV in their bedroom – it’s too much stimulation for them to take before bed.
  • Encouraging sport and physical activity in the evenings can help with sleep but not too close to bedtime.
  • Try to finish eating 2-3 hours before bedtime. Eating or drinking too much may make them less comfortable when settling down for sleep.
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool
  • Reading a book at bedtime can help relax their minds by distracting it from any worries or anxieties

For all those parents whose own sleep is often disturbed by your children’s needs, I salute you. And by creating a more regular bedtime routine, not only will you be helping their bodies grow and develop and lowering their risk of being overweight, you’ll also be hopefully getting more time for yourself before it all starts again the next morning!

Posted: 04/10/2013 11:11:56 by Emily Kelleher
Filed under: Childhood obesity, Children, Sleep


About Me

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Emily Kelleher
Hi, my name is Emily Kelleher and I am a Human Health and Nutrition Research Fellow at safefood. I’m a public health graduate with a keen interest in obesity and cardiovascular health and my day to day business involves reviewing the literature and report writing! When not buried in paper, I love the outdoors and at the weekend you will usually either find me on top of Torc Mountain in my beautiful hometown of Killarney or hiding behind a random lonely planet book planning my next adventure.