Health & Fitness

Sleep’s Role in Your Students’ Well-Being

Without question, sleep is important to kids. It is precious to their growth and learning.

This is critical to all kids from tiny to toddler to school age because it has tremendous impact on the ability of kids to absorb and comprehend, to practice and develop muscle memory – and simply to enjoy all of the activities that are packed into waking hours.

Considerations on sleep summarized from the Huffington Post article, What We’ve Learned About Kids And Sleep In 2015:

  • Sleep is when the brain flushes out, which is especially critical for kids — during sleep the brain cleanses itself, essentially flushing out its own waste.
  • Uninterrupted nighttime rest is particularly vital for kids, because the growth hormone needed for tissue and muscle development is produced mainly overnight, especially from midnight to 6 a.m.
  • The National Sleep Foundation’s guidelines on how long children of different ages should snooze are clear: 10 to 13 hours per day for preschoolers, nine to 11 for kids between ages 6 and 13, and eight to 10 hours for teens.
  • Lack of sleep can lead to misdiagnoses of ADHD.
  • Sleep debt puts kids at higher risk for obesity and diabetes.
  • Sleep debt can make kids more likely to get sick.

Figuring out what the impact of too little sleep is to kids is probably easier than figuring out how to help them get more quality sleep. It is helpful to be aware of kids’ wake and bedtimes, sleep cues, wakefulness windows.

Bedtimes and Wake Times

A bedtime of 7-8pm coincides with starting the day in the 6:30-7:30am window. Later bedtimes can cause a kid to fight sleep and this can cause nap resistance and several of the sleep deprivation symptoms noted below.

Sleep Cues

Rubbing his eyes, yawning, lack of focus, or general crankiness. These are some of the cues that your kid is tired. And if already tired, this is a kid that should have already been in bed. That’s why keeping an eye on the clock for the bedtime corresponding to the kid’s wake time is important.  If the “tired cues” go unnoticed, the kid may become suddenly wired, jumpy, and frantic and winding down for sleep will be more difficult.

Wakefulness Window

Don’t exceed this or you will push your kid beyond the number of hours that the body needs to go without sleep. This window obviously changes with the kid’s age.

There are also four prep tips that can help create a good environment for quality sleep.

1. Move electronics out of the bedroom or use special software to minimize their impact.

The electronics addiction may be stronger than sugar, but all experts are unified that technology must move out of the bedroom.

75% of children have at least one electronic device in their bedroom. (National Sleep Foundation 2014 Sleep in America Poll)

The bedroom should be a rest and recovery haven – not a place for distractions and entertainment. It may be necessary to move some items to accomplish this but the improvement in the kid’s ability to get to sleep and the quality of that sleep is worth it.

Before bed, a period of light diet can be enforced where screen time (whether tv, computer, or device) is reduced/eliminated.

2. Eliminate allergens from the bedroom.

This is just as important as limiting/prohibiting electronics before bed. Allergens – such as secondhand smoke – can cause sleep-disordered breathing and insomnia. There is also a study-supported correlation between secondhand smoke exposure and sleep disturbances in adolescents, including restless legs syndrome that can interfere with sleeping.

3. Offer only high protein snacks.

Sweets at bedtime can cause a spike in blood sugar which is followed by a drop. This can give kids a feeling of hunger in the middle of the night. Protein – a spoon of almond butter – is a better choice.

4. Put quiet time in place.

Call it meditation or mindfulness but more simply it’s quieting the mind with relaxing thoughts. This can reduce stress and improve sleep and can perhaps lead to reduction in insomnia, fatigue and depression.

5. Limit sleep disrupters.

Be aware of caffeine intake. Schedule errands or outings around naptimes. Don’t plan extracurricular activities that interfere with bedtimes.

6. Get outside each day. Go on a walk, play in the grass, or have a picnic lunch.

The exposure to sunlight and fresh air does kids good as does the exercise involved in getting out. Plan these activities around nap times since sunlight interferes with the production of melatonin (which promotes sleep.)

The kids coming in and out of your facilities will enjoy, learn and retain more from your classes if they are getting enough quality sleep. This is something you have no control over so why worry about it?

It could be the answer to the question of why some kids’ behaviors have changed.

If you notice some students have become:

  • Disinterested
  • Fatigue
  • Distracted or difficulty concentrating
  • Irritable or defiant
  • Tantrums
  • Unusually emotional
  • Hyper
  • Clumsy
  • Hungry
  • Excessively talkative

… it could be the results of too little sleep.

These kids may also display behavior that you aren’t privy to such as difficulty in waking in the morning, difficulty falling asleep at night or falling asleep as soon as their heads hit their pillows.

Making good information available to parents about important health and behavioral topics – such as sleep – is a good way to be helpful without prying.

Source: The Huffington Post

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