Undoubtedly, the summer holiday is a fantastic time to enjoy loads of fun, get together with family and friends, and obviously, break free of many of the limitations associating schooling days. While being full of excitement, summer holidays are branded as `chaotic` and tend to put our children out of the list of routines, with the need to sleep early coming on top!
Now that the summer holiday is approaching its end, so are the nights of staying up late. At times, getting children to bed can be a struggle for parents, especially after the `liberties` of an extended vacation. Nevertheless, by supporting our children to get the ample amount and quality of sleep they need, we are helping them to be healthier and better learners.
Sleep is essential for your child to grow, thrive, and perform well in school. When your child does not have enough hours of sleep, it is likely that he will feel tired or cranky in class, unable to concentrate, and may have a hard time following his teacher`s directions. His problem-solving abilities can be impacted, making him easily upset and with frequent mood swings. Moreover, assignments that are usually easy can feel complicated for him, and he may feel clumsy during his PE session or while playing his favourite instrument.
Now that the importance of sleep in childhood has been highlighted, how much sleep does your child need? As per the recommendations of the National Sleep Foundation, school-age children should get between 9-11 hours of sleep each night. And to ensure that your child gets sufficient sleep, it is imperative to maintain his regular sleep pattern on both weekdays and weekends; bedtime fluctuation should not exceed 1-2 hours between weekdays and weekend.
This is the time to prepare your splendid child for school. There is a lot you can do to help your child bridge the `gap` and get the quality of sleep he needs.
Make it a family priority.
Your child will imitate you, so set a good example. Staying up all night is not the right message you are sending to your child. By making sleep a priority for your self, this demonstrates for him that proper sleep is an integral constituent of a healthy lifestyle, and is as important as healthy eating and regular exercise.
Gradually shift bedtime back.
During the summer holiday, your child`s biological clock is, understandably, out of order because of the frequent staying up late. You need to reset this! To develop a healthy sleep pattern, it is recommended that you gradually move back your child’s bedtime by an hour every night, at least two before school starts, until your child is back to his proper bedtime routine. The appropriate bedtime is between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. for most school-age children, based upon their wake-up time. Many experts believe that taking away even one hour of sleep from a healthy child may induce near-instant mood changes, and affect his ability to focus and function.
No technology before bedtime
Keep all electric devices—TVs, laptops, tablets, and cell phones out of your child`s bedroom, particularly at night. To prevent sleep disruption, turn off all screens at least one hour before bedtime. Do not leave any charging device in his room; even the nominal light emitted during charging can disrupt his sleep cycle.
Maintain a bedtime routine
Your child will do better when he knows what to expect; consistency is the key. Choose a relaxing activity to do just before sleeping (such as reading a short bedtime story), and make it part of his nightly routine. Do not fill the bed with toys, and remember to dim his bedroom`s light and keep it quiet.
Beware of Caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant! It is found in many products such as fizzy drinks, coffee-based products, chocolate, and iced tea. Caffeine may remain in your child`s system for eight to 10 hours and interfere with his ability to have a peaceful sleep. It is wise to keep your child`s caffeine consumption to a minimum. Check the ingredient list on foods and beverages your child is consuming for any hidden caffeine.
You might take the matter lightly, or even be tempted to think that your child can cope quite well with a few skipped hours here and there. Nevertheless, all children flourish on a regular bedtime routine. Habitual lack of proper sleep often leads to an array of challenging behaviours and weak school performance. Children who get enough sleep have a healthier immune system, with better response, memory, and mental functioning. So, are you sending your child off to bed early enough?
We wish your splendid child a successful, thriving, and healthy academic year.
The Department of Paediatrics
THE DUBAI LONDON CLINIC AND SPECIALITY HOSPITAL