We're sure you're all familiar with the importance of sleep and don't need to be told about the critical details to getting a good night's rest, but you might not know just how important it is for your children to get the best sleep they can get, and often. Your children are in a crucial stage of their live, constantly growing and changing and their sleep is absolutely essential to helping their bodies and brains grow and advance. Sleep deprivation can significantly impact even the best of us, let alone a young child who's in their most active development years.
Great sleep is beneficial for their long-term heart health
As you sleep, your body still of course continues to function albeit very differently. Critically, your body slows down through the night and offers some respite for your active vessels, protecting you from vascular damage as a result of the circulating stress hormones and cholesterol. Sleep specialist and researcher Jeffrey Durmer, M.D.. PhD states that "children with sleep disorders have excessive brain arousal during sleep, which can trigger the fight-or-flight response hundreds of times each night. Their blood glucose and cortisol remain elevated at night. Both are linked with higher levels of diabetes, obesity and even heart disease."
Sleep is essential for growth
During sleep, children see their growth hormones distributed, particularly in deeper sleep. During this time, essential development happens throughout the body and brain, needed to help them advance. This is shown really prevalently in babies, who spend almost 50% of their time asleep, during which, they constantly grow and change into the toddler stage.
Fight off germs and infections
In the night, the body begins to produce cytokines, a protein used to fight infection, stress and illness which could take effect on the body. They also make us feel sleepy, which shows during a cold or flu in the form of full body exhaustion - just another way our bodies are telling us to rest.
When you lack the necessary amount of sleep, the amount of cytokines available in our body drops, making your body less prepared in the event of stress, illness or infection flaring up within the body. Research shows that adults who sleep 7 hours or less per night are up to 3 times more likely to develop a cold than those who sleep for 8 hours or more. While specific data relating to children is limited, we're sure the pattern follows suit, as teenagers show the same repercussions.
Sleep aids with eating and weight loss habits
When we eat and reach the point we feel full, a hormone called leptin is released, signalling to stop eating and to rest. When we lack sleep and suffer from sleep deprivation, the production of leptin can be inhibited, directly tying tiredness in children to obesity as they don't stop eating when they should. Of course, this effect goes hand in hand with overall tiredness, meaning that children exercise less and less.
Overtime, the eating habits we form begin to take their toll and just like adults, children's habits are impacted by the lack of sleep. They tend to crave foods with higher fat and carb values when they're tired, further doubling down on the effects. Paediatric endocrinologist and sleep research at the University of Chicago, Dorit Koren, M.D., puts it simply, saying: "Overtime, kids who don't get enough sleep are more likely to be obese."
Sleep is vital for learning and retention
Your child is in their most critical stages, learning so much new information day-to-day and taking in the world. It's all so new and exciting to them, but their sleep is absolutely critical to their retention and memory. After a long day in school, or learning at home, even from playing and just exploring, their brains use the sleeping downtime to help the brain store the information.
One study by the University of Massachusetts Amherst taught 40 nursery-aged children a game called memory. One week, the kids took a nap averaging 77 minutes. The next week, they didn't take a nap. When they stayed awake, the children forgot, on average, 15% of what they had learned, but they retained everything after napping.
It's clear to see that after all this research and data, just how essential a good sleep is for your children.