Know the benefits of sleep for children and why it’s important for health

Putting a child to bed is a legit task for all parents, isn’t it? Some sing them lullabies, some read out bedtime stories, and some just tire them out enough for them to fall naturally asleep! But let’s make no mistake – a healthy sleep routine is crucial to a child’s health. There are also benefits of sleep for children. Let’s find out more!

Sleep is one of the key building blocks that contributes to a child’s well-being and development in a big way, says Dr Nitin M, Consultant – Paediatrician & Neonatologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Electronic City, Bengaluru.

According to the expert, children who get adequate sleep have improved attention span, learning, memory and motor skill development which results in the overall improvement in their mental and physical health. Not getting sufficient sleep results in complications such as high blood pressure, obesity, and even depression in certain cases. Therefore, proper sleep has a positive impact on the overall health of the child.

Know the benefits of sleep for children

1. Sleep results in growth due to the secretion of growth hormones.
2. Sleep helps the heart and protects children from vascular damage. Lack of sleep may result in excessive brain arousal which can lead to higher levels of diabetes, obesity, and heart diseases due to the circulation of stress hormones in the arterial wall in adulthood.
3. Inadequate amount of sleep may also result in obesity.
4. Sleep defeats and kills germs as well. When someone sleeps, a protein named cytokines is produced. The primary function of this protein is to fight illness, infection, and stress. Lack of sleep results in less production of cytokines.
5. Sleep also increases a child’s attention span which results in a significant boost in learning.

Lack of sleep may affect a child’s growth and development which causes hindrance in their performance and their day-to-day activities. Kids with insufficient sleep may have chances of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), a chronic condition resulting in attention deficit and impulsive behaviour or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Also read: 12 firm ways to develop healthy sleep habits in children

Lack of sleep can affect children
Lack of sleep can affect children. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Risk factors of SIDS

Dr Nitin says the risk of sudden infant death syndrome may increase if:

* The mother, husband, or anyone sharing the bed with the baby consumes alcohol or medication, or drugs which may result in drowsiness and hence, improper handling of the baby.
* If the mother or anyone sharing the bed smokes or consumes e-cigarettes. Most SIDS in India are due to second-hand or passive smoking.
* The baby is under three months old, is premature (born earlier than 37 weeks), or had a low birth weight (less than 2.5kg).

What is the recommended amount of sleep for kids?

Infants under 1 year: 12-16 hours
Children 1-2 years old: 11-14 hours
Children 3-5 years old: 10-13 hours
Children 6-12 years old: 9-12 hours
Teenagers 13-18 years old: 8-10 hours

Healthy sleeping habits in children
Inculcate healthy sleep habits in kids. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How to ensure proper sleep for children?

Establishing a consistent bedtime routine for kids is crucially important and should be consistent every night. One can do this by ensuring a specific sleep time that should be practiced strictly without any excuses.

* Dim the lights and establish a certain temperature.
* Stop the use of electronics/screens at least an hour before bed
* Limit intake of caffeine
* Give them a warm/lukewarm bath
* Do a quiet family activity such as reading bedtime stories or singing a lullaby

If your child is having daytime sleepiness or behaviour difficulties in school that you think might be linked to lack of sleep, you should visit your paediatrician and consult.

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