While everyone knows that sleep is a necessary part of the day, especially for children, we don’t always have a good response ready when someone, like a child, wants to know why. The importance of sleep cannot be overstated. The damaging effects of sleep deprivation are evident everywhere you look. For children the stakes are even higher, the consequences more dire and farther reaching. To help parents understand why bedtimes matter and to arm them with information for the next argument over why their child has to go to bed, here are ten reasons children need sleep to thrive.
1. It Gives Their Body a Break
Sleep is like a daily spa vacation for the body. It is a time when cells rejuvenate, muscles rebuild, and our bodies restore themselves. Without sleep, our bodies don’t have the downtime they need to keep themselves active and agile for the next day’s activities.
2. It Lets Their Brain De-clutter
Although there is still much to be learned about what happens in our brains while we sleep, research indicates that sorting, storing, and filing away information, memories, and experiences may be one of the central functions our brains perform during sleep. Without sleep, it’s a clutter, disorganized mess.
3. It Helps Regulate Emotions
Anyone who has spent an afternoon with a tired toddler knows that the most pleasant child, or adult for that matter, can turn as prickly as a cactus if they don’t get enough sleep. Being overtired can make it difficult to manage our emotions and everyday things can make us cranky, irritable, and too grumpy to be around company.
4. It Helps Them Grow
While scientists haven’t proven a distinct connection between sleep deprivation in children and stunted growth, there is a connection between sleep and the release of growth hormones. Getting enough sleep guarantees that our bodies are producing the right amount of hormones and chemicals at the right times to keep us growing and going strong.
5. It Builds Up Their Resistance
Getting enough sleep seems to boost your immune system or rather not getting enough sleep seems to hurt your immune system’s ability to respond, according to researchers in Brazil. They found that the white blood cell counts of rats dropped by 20% when they were deprived of sleep. That’s a heck of a hit to take in the middle of cold and flu season.
6. It Protects Their Mental Health
New research shows there may be a link between persistent sleep difficulties in childhood and mental health problems like depression, anxiety disorders, and alcohol abuse later in life. Additional research needs to be done to further prove these new theories, but in the meantime, making sure children get the sleep they need is a critical part of keeping them healthy, either way.
7. It Helps Them Make and Keep Friends
Just as emotional regulation suffers when we are sleep deprived, so do our relationships with other people. A recent study showed that many children who display aggressive behaviors in school and bully other children are simply not getting enough sleep. Give your child a great start at building relationships by helping them build great sleep habits.
8. It Helps Them Stay Healthy
Another area of study in sleep medicine is the potential link between not getting enough sleep and gaining weight and the preliminary findings are not good. Not getting enough sleep may be a huge factor in weight gain, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems.
9. It Lets Them Learn
When you are tired you have more trouble paying attention, are less able to acquire and process new knowledge, struggle with critical thinking, and are often unable to effectively store and retrieve information from our memory. All of these things are critical components of learning and kids who are over tired and sleep deprived won’t have access to the mental faculties they need to learn the basic skills they need to have.
10. It Gives Them Energy
The verdict is still out on how sleep and energy are related, but the cause and effect is pretty clear in our kids. When they don’t get enough sleep, they lack energy. This can cause serious problems if they are active in sports teams, after school activities, or other pursuits that require a sustainable supply of energy.
About Valley Sleep Center:
Since 2002, Valley Sleep Center, accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, has provided Arizona with diagnostic sleep disorder testing in a home-like atmosphere, ensuring a comfortable, relaxing experience for patients. Their Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists consist of experienced and knowledgeable physicians who provide expert advice across a multitude of sleep related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, sleepwalking, and pediatric sleep problems. They accept most insurance plans as well as Medicare. For more information contact Lauri Leadley at 480-830-3900; http://www.valleysleepcenter.com.