Friday, 7 September 2012

Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep?

When you see parents carrying exhausted kids home after midnight on a summer’s evening, you begin to wonder about children getting enough sleep. They are then allowed to sleep late and the first rule of establishing a set bedtime and waking up time is thrown out the window.

That may be one reason why kids are deprived of sleep and this is usually exacerbated by  relaxing the bedtimes at weekends because they do not have to get up for school. But this has been a problem over the last two hundred years so in a way, it is nothing new.

Consider this quotation from The British Medical Journal in 1894 – “the hurry and excitement of modern life is quite correctly held to be responsible for much of the insomnia of which we hear”.
The reasons why kids may not be getting enough sleep now are probably quite different to what they were in 1894!

In the UK recently, an organisation (Family Fund) which helps deprived families noted that the sleeping conditions were very poor and that many families had to sleep together.  Where there were problems of sleep walking and talking, the charity noted that families rarely took precautions to make sure that children did not have accidents during the night.

Simple things like playing white noise such as a ventilator or fan or some soft music can help kids to get off to sleep. Then security should be looked at making sure that there are no open windows leading on to balconies or stairs so that sleep walkers do not end up with a nasty fall. The same precautions should be taken about any pointed objects or bulky furniture in the room.

5 Tips To Make Sure Your Kids Get Enough Sleep

1. Unless you are very poor like some of the families I have mentioned above, there is no need o sleep with your child. It is amazing the number of kids who sleep with their parents as witnessed by the Italian programme called ‘SOS Tata’ the Italian version of SOS Nanny!  Sleeping together causes all sorts of problems and kids should be taught to be responsible from an early age as this is a third of their lives. They should be taught techniques to manage it and to cope with eventual problems such as insomnia.

2. Establish a winding down time which is always relaxing.  That means switching off all TV, computers and electronic gadgetry well before bedtime. This is just part of the regular routine so it is important to stick to it. We have to ensure that there are no physical activities or digestion of late dinners and so on. We need to make sure that the routine is adhered to at the weekends and in holidays because getting back into the routine can often be traumatic and lead to behavior issues.  These can disturb many a child.

3. Kids need lots of sleep and any child up to the age of eleven should be getting about 11 hours sleep, ideally. But I know lots of kids who can get by on eight hours sleep so there is no hard and fast rule here. But look for warning signs of irritability during the day which might suggest that your child needs more sleep.  This is essential for healthy growth and development. A twelve year old child may need up to 12 hours. This then gradually reduces to the adult amount of seven to eight hours as they advance in years.

4, Look critically at your child’s sleeping area and make sure that temperature is neither too hot nor too cold. It is said that 18° C is an ideal temperature. If your child is afraid of the dark, put on a night light and also make sure that curtains are drawn so that they do not wake up too early.

5. Milk  may help the child to relax. It contains tryptophan which can help a child to fall asleep. But many argue that all this psychological! That same hormone is also present in turkey which explains sleepy afternoons after a typical Christmas Day lunch but actually you would have to eat an awful lot of turkey to get the right amount of tryptophan. But if you combine the milk with a little carbohydrate, it can apparently heighten the effect.  Avoid the use of chocolate and coffee which are of course stimulants so that eating a dessert with coffee in it is not a great idea!

If your child suffers from ADHD, getting enough sleep will be even more crucial as sleep challenges are very common among kids with this condition. This is not helped by the fact that some of the medication prescribed such as Ritalin and Adderall just seem to keep kids awake. Look for ADHD alternative treatment if that is the case as good quality sleep is absolutely critical for your child growing up.

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