Exactly what is sleep, & why do all kids need it
Precisely what is sleep, & why do all kids need it is one of most of the commonly asked questions I get asked. Simply put sleep is more important than most other things that you will think of first. There are only two other things more fundamental to you as a human—those being breathing and drinking.
So, you are struggling to believe me. You are reading this thinking to yourself. Mmmm…no it is OK to miss out a good night sleep. Right?! OK, I will simply ask you this, can you think of a time when you did not get enough sleep?
Do you recall the feels that went with this? The groggy, heavy feeling you got. It is awful, isn’t it? So, therefore, the next obvious statement is that by feeling that way, you simply are not at your best. I would, therefore, like to talk about sleep, that is if you are not too tired that is.
Sleep, why do you need it?
Let us make a list of the average busy day for most children these days. The list of the daily activities includes school, playing with friends, attending to your sports practice, & other club activities, caring for your family pet & then completing your homework. Looking at this list, you can see clearly why by the end of the day, all our body is needing is to take a break. By the action of sleeping, it is when your body can rest, repair, and develop properly, making us ready for the next day.
All living things survive because they sleep. Take your dog or cat; for example, they must curl up for naps. All those animals sleep for the same reasons that we do — to give our body a chance to rest and recuperate.
Our brain needs zzzzz’s
As well as our body needing rest, our brain needs sleep too. Although nobody knows the exact reason, our brain needs sleep or what work the brain carries out when you are sleeping. Some scientists believe this is when your brain sorts out and stores all the days’ information. Replacing the chemicals we used during the day. We were resolving any problems while we sleep.
In a recent survey, it found that most kids aged between 5 and 12years old, got on average 9.5 hours of sleep a night. Unfortunately, it is agreed by most sleep experts that they need to be having around 10 or 11 hours each night. Do remember; however, sleep is very individual, which means that some children may require more hours than others.
A good indicator that we can recognise our bodies when we are not getting enough hours to sleep. You may feel tired or cranky while struggling to appear to think clearly. Simpler things like being able to follow direction become a challenge. Alternatively, you discover you have more arguments with people over something silly when looked at more closely. That school assignment may feel impossible when previously, they were doable. Being or feeling clumsier is also felt more often when you are tired.
All the above is just one more reason that you need to ensure they get enough sleep: Simply put – if they do not, may not allow them to grow as well as they should be. It is not too scary you; however, it is true. Researchers can prove that too little sleep in children does affect growth and their immune system — that all-important prevention we all need to stop them from getting sick.
Let us look at falling asleep. You are drifting off to sleep. At that point, it does not feel like there is much happening at all. Some people describe falling asleep as a feeling of the room getting fuzzy, with your eyelids beginning to feel heavier and heavier. Then what happens? All I can say is A lot!
It is at this point our brain jumps into action. First, it starts by telling your body how to sleep. While you slowly drift off to sleep, we enter the different stages of sleep:
This stage is very light sleep. During which our body begins to feel drowsy. At this stage and point, you can still be woken up easily. For example, if your partner pokes you or you hear a loud noise outside. You will wake up right away. When sleep latency is correct, it should take you 20min to fall asleep.
After this time has passed, you enter stage 2, a slightly deeper sleep. It is at this point your brain gives a signal to your muscles to relax. At the same time, you are telling your heartbeat and breathing to slow down a little. While making your body temperature drops a bit also.
At this stage, an even deeper sleep occurs, referred to as slow-wave sleep. During this stage, your brain again sends a message to your blood pressure to lower. Our body, at this point, is not sensitive to air temperature around you. Means that at this stage, you will not be aware of it a little hot or cold. At this stage, it is much harder to awaken. It is at this point that we find some people may talk or sleepwalk.
The deepest sleep yet. It is also considered slow-wave sleep, which means that it is harder to wake up during this stage of sleep. Therefore, if you do wake up, you will appear to be out of it. You are confused for a short period, at least a few minutes initially. As like in stage 3, sleep talking, or walking may occur when going from stage 4 to a lighter stage of sleep.
R.E.M. – stand for Rapid Eye Movement. With all the muscles except your eyes relaxed. The eyes move very quickly back and forth beneath the eyelids. It is during this R.E.M. stage that the heartbeats become faster and breathing becomes less regular. At this stage – dreams occur!
As we sleep, stages 2, 3, 4, and R.E.M. occur every 90 minutes in adults until you wake up in the morning. For most older children, that is on average five times a night. In younger children, R.E.M. does not always occur. So, who correctly said sleeping was boring? Lots of exciting things going on there.
What is R.E.M. sleep?
During R.E.M. sleep, people dream. In the period, following the deepest stage of sleep. Dreams occur every time we sleep. It is just some people cannot remember them in the morning. Occurring due to how you wake up. Affecting how or if you remember the dream. If you wake up R.E.M. stage sleep, you will be more likely to remember everything much clearer about your dream. Unlike those who woke during any other stage of sleep. Were it found they could not recall anything about the dreams.
It is not known for sure, why people dream. Scientists today believe that dreams are linked to how our brains organize the days emotions and memories. With some suggestion made by some scientists that our dreams are a way our brain of making sense of what occurred during the day. While others think dreaming allows the brain to sort through the events of the day. By it storing any important stuff as a memory. While getting rid of the junk it does not need. There are some scientists who believe a dream is a clue to the person. Highlighting to you what you have been thinking or worrying about.
How to Catch Your ZZZs
For most adults, sleeping does come naturally due to them having been able to understand the signals in our body and what they are telling us. For those who do struggle a bit more with sleep, these tips below can help you ensure you are catching enough ZZZs that you need:
- Same time every night – Go to bed, every night at the same time; this is due to helping your body get into a routine.
- Have and follow a bedtime routine is calming. Taking a warm bath or reading a book. However, this should not be a screen.
- Be aware of the food you eat at dinner and evening time. Avoid drinks that contain caffeine from late afternoon to evening. Be mindful as these do include some sodas, & beverages such as ice-tea.
- No TV in your room. Research carried out, showed kids with TV in their bedrooms did get less sleep. If, however, you must have a TV, turn it off altogether when it is time to sleep.
- Be aware of what you do watch on TV. No scary shows or movies near to bedtime. Watching these can make it hard sometimes to fall asleep.
- Avoid strenuous exercise just before going to bed. Training is best to be done earlier in the day — Doing exercise does help a person sleep better.
- Your bed just for sleeping — do not allow your child to do homework, playing games, scrolling the internet, talking on the phone, or reading in bed. By keeping it only to sleep will create an association between your mind & body that your bed with sleep.
Our role as parents
We, as parents need to be aware of these rules for our child. It is our role as parents to ensure they follow these to ensure they are well-rested and ready for the next day ahead and the challenges that will bring.
If you do feel your child is having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep for more than one or two nights. Then I suggest you speak to them about anything that could be worrying them. By avoiding the above list, you can rule out their lack of sleep is due to any of the above, the easy to fix solutions as they can keep them from sleeping. If you have and still find their rest is off sorts, then get in touch so we can help them solve their sleep problems. Before they become much more significant and more permanent sleep concerns as most adults, I now deal with have had sleeping issues throughout their childhood. They are made worse by the demands of adult life.
I offer packages for all age groups, child programs – 4-16yrs, toddler 18 – 3years, infant 4 – 18months & 0-3 months new-born. As well as children, I also offer adult sleep programs. These can be a private 1-2-1 consultation with a personalised sleep program or a DIY program created for you to work through at your own pace. What I have found with most teenagers, that just talking calmly about sleep can help. The more relaxed you are about sleep, the best the sleep you have.
Let us work together to get you to the point where you feel tired enough to be able to yawn, meaning you are ready enough to sleep. Book a call with me today for a free 15 min introductory call with myself, Lisa Gargaro, the sleep expert.