Thursday, 01 September 2016 08:07

How Important is Sleep to Well-Being?

Written by  Nancy Thomas
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As Americans, we seem to pride ourselves on how little sleep we need and how busy we are!  However, we were created to have downtime to sleep, reflect, pray, to commune with and seek wisdom from God.  Even God rested!


By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.Genesis 2:2


When we take time to rest, not only do we feel better, but we make better decisions, enjoy life and our relationships more, and function better and more efficiently.  This holds true for children and adolescents as well.


Our hectic everyday routine can make it difficult to find enough time to sleep, even for children.  Many parents aren’t getting home until after 5 pm and struggle to complete meals, homework and bathing before bed. Not only do parents miss out on sleep and quality time, but children’s bedtimes are moving ever later.


Why is sleep so important to children?  Children require sleep as much as they require healthy nutrition and clean air.  Sleep enables concentration, the ability to learn, facilitates moving short term memory to long term memory and the retrieval of memory when needed.  Research indicates that sleeping well enhances academic performance more effectively than staying up late to cram for a test the next day.


There are other consequences of inadequate sleep for children and adolescents.  When sleepy, they have more moodiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, difficulty with judgment and decision making, and less creativity. Accidents and injuries are more common when fatigued.  Sleep deprived children are at greater risk for obesity. 


How much sleep do children require?  Observe how long your children sleep on average when they are undisturbed and well rested.  Then count backwards from the time they have to get up in the morning by that number to arrive at the time they need to be in bed.  Generally, depending on age, children need varying amounts but the recommended amounts below will shock you:



•  Infants sleep as much as 9-20 hours per day.

• Toddlers and preschoolers need 11-13 hours of sleep including naps.

• 6-12 year olds need 10-11 hours of sleep.

• Adolescents need 9-10 hours of sleep. If your children are extremely difficult to get up in the morning, it is a good sign that they are not getting enough sleep.



What is good sleep hygiene or what helps kids sleep?


• Encourage daily exercise early in the day so that the kids are physically tired.

• Limit caffeine (preferably none, but eliminate all caffeine 6 hours before bedtime). Caffeine is excessive in coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, etc.

• Reduce fluid intake prior to bedtime.

• Limit artificial flavors, colors, sugar and sweeteners (some children are very sensitive to these).

• Eliminate the use of computer, cell phone and TV at least one hour prior to bedtime. (Blue light from computer and cell phone disturbs sleep the most in pre-teen and teen years.)

• Have a bedtime ritual that sends a signal to the body that it is time to sleep. The ritual can be a bath, quiet time, devotional, listening to soft music, reading, or talking quietly.

• White noise machines can eliminate the normal noises in the house that stimulate sensitive children and keep them awake.

• Get up earlier to go to bed earlier, not the other way around.

• Eat dinner early but it is okay to have a light wholesome snack before bed.

• Teach kids a relaxing technique they can do on their own.

• If they have a clock in the room, make sure the clock is turned around so that the digital light is not stimulating.

• Keep the room cool.

• Model appropriate behavior by unplugging from electronics yourself.

• Encourage the entire household to gradually move towards relaxation and sleep in the evening.

• Try not to vary the weekday and weekend bedtime routine by more than an hour.

• Use a night light of no more than 7 watts so they do not have to turn on a light switch if they get up in the night.

The disciples fell asleep out of fatigue when they should not have, but Jesus also recognized when they needed to sleep in Mark 6.  Perhaps you can do the same for your family.



The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught…he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Mark 6:30-32



By providing healthy sleep hygiene and structure, we are teaching our children self- regulation which is life skill they will be able to use forever just as God designed!

Last modified on Thursday, 01 September 2016 08:12
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