When summertime comes to a close and the new school year arrives, parents and kids alike are required to make a pretty significant shift. And if you aren’t prepared for it, the transition can be tough.
Why Kids Need Adequate Sleep
Every parent has an intuitive understanding of the importance of sleep for their children. They see how a lack of sleep directly impacts a child’s mood, as well as how it can indirectly impact other areas of their physical and emotional well-being. But most parents fail to grasp the big picture of just how important sleep really is.
Here are just a few reasons why adequate sleep is necessary for kids:
- Promotes physical growth. Many parents are surprised to discover that growth hormone is primarily secreted during deep sleep. It’s for this reason that babies, infants, and young children need more sleep than older adults (who have already undergone most of their physical growth and development).
- Aids in heart health. The latest research in the scientific community has confirmed that sleep protects children from vascular damage. Children whose sleep is frequently interrupted experience elevated blood glucose and cortisol levels at night. This is linked to a variety of chronic health conditions, including diabetes and heart disease.
- Strengthens immune system. The human body relies on proteins called cytokines to fight off infections, stress, and various illnesses. During sleep, children produce these proteins. Thus, a lack of sleep can actually suppress a child’s immune system and make them more susceptible to sickness and disease.
- Promotes better learning. There’s a direct correlation between adequate sleep and increased attention spans and the ability to focus, which are both linked to learning. Children who get proper sleep each night are better suited for classroom learning and knowledge absorption.
“Sleep is as important as nutrition and exercise,” Sarah Mahoney writes for Parents.com. “It's when the body repackages neurotransmitters, chemicals that enable brain cells to communicate. And experts have recently been able to demonstrate that sleep allows brain cells to ‘take out the trash’ each night, flushing out disease-causing toxins.”
A lack of sleep can have drastic effects on school-aged children. Mahoney explains that the repercussions of sleep deprivation are visible after just four nights of one less hour of sleep per night. In other words, if a child should be getting 10 hours of sleep and they only get nine hours of sleep for a stretch of four nights in a row, they can experience physical and cognitive side effects that negatively impact their waking hours.
5 Tips for a School Sleep Schedule
A consistent sleep schedule plays a significant role in helping school-aged children obtain the sleep they need to maximize physical growth and cognitive performance. The body’s circadian rhythm can be trained to fall asleep and wake up at the same time, which establishes balance and promotes stability.
Here are a few ways parents can transition from unstructured summers to purposeful school sleep schedules:
1. Gradually Adjust Bedtimes
When it comes to sleep schedules for the school year, parents often make the mistake of waiting until the night before the first day of school to start the transition. Suddenly a child who has been going to bed at 10 p.m. and waking up at 8 a.m. is asked to go to bed at 8:30 p.m. and wake up at 6:30 a.m. and parents wonder why the child has trouble falling asleep and waking up on time. (Hint: The human body has a circadian rhythm that needs to be trained over time.)
The key is to start the transition into a school sleep schedule a couple weeks before the academic year begins. Instead of suddenly pushing bedtime from 10 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., try gradually pushing bedtime back 10 or 15 minutes each night and waking children up 10 or 15 minutes later.
2. Be Smart About Daytime Habits
What your child does during his waking hours has a direct impact on his ability to get quality sleep at night. If you want your child to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep throughout the night, you need to be cognizant of what he’s doing during the daytime.
To boost sleep quality, eliminate bad behaviors like excessive screen time and poor diets. (Cut out as much refined sugar and processed foods as possible.) Children should also be encouraged to get as much physical activity as they can.
3. Optimize the Bedroom Environment
Your child’s bedroom environment has a significant impact on his ability to fall asleep. As a general rule of thumb, a bedroom should be dark, cool, and quiet. You also need to think about the quality of the mattress and bedding your child uses. A bed that’s comfortable and supportive will go a long way towards promoting better sleep year-round.
4. Create a Bedtime Routine
Everyone benefits from routine. Train your children to prepare for bed by creating a bedtime routine that sends a signal that it's time to unwind and fall asleep. Bedtime routines are highly dependent on age and personality and will look different for each child. The key is to establish a plan and stick with it.
5. Prioritize Consistency
At the end of the day, it’s all about consistency. The more consistency you establish for your children, the more natural a sleep schedule will be. Try to maintain the same bedtime and waking times each day, even on weekends. (While not always practical or necessary, you can make your job a lot easier by keeping a consistent sleep schedule year-round, summers included.)
At Perfect Cloud, we take pride in providing families with high-quality sleep solutions that promote optimal sleep and restoration. In addition to offering industry-leading mattresses and pillows, we also have mattress toppers designed to cost-effectively upgrade any existing mattress.
Mattress toppers are perfect for everyone - including children. They’re thoroughly tested to eliminate nervous tension and reduce tossing and turning. And with a 10-year warranty, you can rest easy knowing that your mattress topper will grow with your child. Buy today and help your family discover what perfect sleep feels like!