As we enter a new year, many people take the time to reflect and consider ways to improve the quality of their family’s health and wellness. Although healthy eating and regular exercise usually take center stage with New Year’s resolutions, one of the most fundamental aspects of good health is good sleep.
While achieving quality sleep is essential at all stages of life, sleep is especially important for developing children and adolescents because rest and recovery are essential for physical growth, mental development, and emotional health.
Sleep deprivation in a child can manifest as behavioral issues, poor academic performance, daytime sleepiness, and learning difficulties.
However, it can be difficult to determine if a child is receiving adequate sleep or if they are experiencing normal age-related changes. We will review healthy children’s sleep patterns, sleep hygiene tips, and possible causes of sleep disturbance.
Sleep is a complex biological process that involves several areas of the brain and endocrine system working together. These structures are controlled by two mechanisms to allow for sleep, with the first mechanism being the circadian rhythm and the second mechanism being sleep-wake homeostasis.
The circadian rhythm is the body’s 24-hour clock that orchestrates a variety of body functions, including metabolism, sleep/wake cycles, and hormonal releases. The clock is roughly based on a 24-hour day.
Sleep-wake homeostasis is the natural inclination of the body to sleep after sleep deprivation or activity. The sleep-wake drive also determines the intensity of the sleep. However, the need for sleep will vary depending on the age of the child.
Sleep consists of three distinct stages: light sleep, deep sleep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Each stage serves a different purpose in the sleep cycle. The light sleep stage forms a majority of sleep in children and is followed by the deep sleep stage, which allows for rest and
nd REM sleep is important because growth hormone is released from the pituitary gland and allows for proper growth and development.
[Read: How Much Sleep Do We Need?]
Good sleep hygiene and habits will allow for consistent sleep patterns in children and avoid behavioral causes of insomnia.
Create a room for sleep – avoid bright lights and loud sounds, keep the room at a cool, comfortable temperature, and do not allow television, computers, or phones in the room.
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