A new study has highlighted how losing just 39 minutes of sleep in a night can impact children. So what can we do to help kids get the best night’s sleep possible?
As adults, we know just how much sleep affects our ability to go about our daily lives. Following on from those nights where we toss and turn, getting through the next day is a whole lot harder. And, it’s the same for kids. In fact, it might be even worse.
In a new study, published this week in Jama Network Open, researchers found that a difference of just 39 minutes in a child’s total sleep can have a big impact on them.
Monitoring 100 participants between the ages of eight and 12, the children were asked to alternate between a week of going to bed one hour earlier than normal, and then one hour later – with one week of going to bed at their normal time between those two changes.
Both the children and their parents then filled out questionnaires, rating their sleep disturbances and impairment during the day, as well as their quality of life as it relates to their health.
The assessment asked the children questions about whether they felt they were able to pay attention while in school, as well as how they felt physically.
Prior to the study, all the children who took part regularly slept between eight and 11 hours each night, and were also generally healthy. What the researchers saw after one week of the children receiving 39 minutes less of sleep each night, was the children reporting lower overall wellbeing, and they also found it more difficult to cope at school.
“Sleep is such a fundamental human requirement that, when it eludes us, it can have a negative impact on our day-to-day lives,” says hypnotherapist Angela Brown. “The impact of poor sleep can range from poor concentration to challenging behaviour, inability to learn new tasks, stress, anxiety, and depression.”
With so much at stake, how can you best support your child with their sleep? Angela has some suggestions:
1. Establish a routine
“Keep to a routine with a set amount of sleep. This helps to get our circadian rhythm back on track, so we feel more alert and able to function effectively.”
2. Set the scene
“If we can control the stimuli in the bedroom, it can have a positive effect on our sleep. Things to think about are the weight of the duvet – lighter for summer, heavier for winter. Thick curtains or black-out blinds, so our brains know it is time to sleep. No blue light, so no phones, TVs, or electrical devices in the bedroom.”
3. Encourage exercise
“With as little as 30 minutes of activity, such as walking, running, and playing, we increase our ability to concentrate, giving us a chemical reward by generating positive endorphins, which help us to cope with life’s ups and downs.”
4. Control the light
“Our sleep is affected by the amount of sunlight we get. If we’re sitting inside on a computer by a window for 30 minutes, we might get 300 lumens of light on a sunny day. Whereas if we went outside and had a drink in the sunshine we might get as many as 25,000 lumens of light. That means more vitamin D and melatonin, which are both important for sleep. If we have excess melatonin, it will be converted to serotonin – the wonderful coping chemical that helps us feel balanced, a win-win combo!”
5. Mindfulness exercises
“Look at a rectangle – it could be a phone, ceiling, radiator, piece of paper, or in your head. Focus on the corner of the short line as you breathe in for seven, then with your eye follow the long line as you breathe out counting for 11, holding for one second on the corners if you can. Repeat this for a couple of minutes.”
Read our full guide to helping kids get a good night’s sleep
Whether it be how we navigate relationships with others, the work that we produce, our happiness, our energy, or our overall wellbeing – sleep plays an important role in all of it. And nurturing children’s ability to sleep is one of the best ways that we can support them as they grow.
Interested in working with a hypnotherapist? Connect with a professional using the Hypnotherapy Directory