We all know how important sleep is for adults, affecting everything from physical wellbeing to our mood to our cognitive function.
But for children, sleep is even more critical, impacting their growth, behaviour and ability to retain information.
So here’s a quick guide to how sleep affects children’s development and why you should concentrate on providing them with an environment that sets the stage for the best sleep possible.
How much sleep do children need?
The amount of sleep children need varies across their childhood years, with the Australian Department of Health recommending children should have the following amount of sleep each night:
- ages 3 to 5 - 10 to 13 hours
- ages 6 to 13 - 9 to 11 hours
- ages 14 to 17 - 8 to 10 hours
The impact of sleep
Regular, quality sleep is one of the key building blocks of children’s development.
Getting enough sleep allows them to better retain information and learn, while also improving their immune system, mood and behaviour, and supporting all the growing they do, each and every day.
An insufficient amount of sleep or poor quality of sleep has been linked to behavioural problems, learning difficulties and more.
Setting your children up for a great night’s sleep
Establishing healthy sleep habits in children comes down to three key fundamentals: schedule, routine, and sleep environment.
Even when they are very little, children are active little people who benefit from a sleep schedule.
Depending on the stage of childhood they are at, set a suitable bedtime that allows them to get the sleep they need.
Once you have this schedule, stick to it, even on weekends and holidays.
This allows the body to recognise when it’s time to go to sleep and begin winding down.
To help your child ready themselves for sleep, follow the same routine each and every night, whether that involves a bath, bedtime story, or relaxation.
This routine should also see technology turned off an hour prior to bedtime.
Although this might be more challenging in their teen years, stepping away from technology, such as television, computers and mobile phones, in advance of bedtime helps everyone, including children, sleep better.
It’s also important to help your child avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea, sports drinks, chocolate and sugary treats from the afternoon onwards.
The sleep environment
Like adults, children benefit from a sleep environment that is conducive to resting. Ensure your child’s bedroom is not too hot and not too cold, and that it is dark and quiet.
If your child finds total darkness overwhelming, use a night light or calming aromatherapy diffuser with light.
When it comes to bed linen, opt for natural fibres that help retain the right body temperature.