Want to Keep Your Kids Happy? Let them Sleep Longer, New Study Suggests

By Sharon Moore on October 26, 2012

Does your child seem distracted, moody and irritable during daytime? Well, maybe you could turn off the lights a little early tonight. In a new study, Canadian researchers found that it only takes an extra 27 minutes of sleep at night for children to feel better and upbeat the following day.

The study involved 34 school children ages 7 to 11 with no medical, behavioural, sleep or academic problems. To measure the effects of more sleep to their mental and physical health, their usual bedtimes were adjusted up or back an hour for a span of one week. Teachers and parents were asked to rate the children’s behaviour. To ensure accuracy of the sleeping time, the children slept wearing a wristwatch-like device that monitored their sleep and activity.

Extended sleep makes children more cheerful

The researchers found that kids who got additional 27.36 minutes of sleep per night showed improvements than those who got less. As reported by their parents and teachers, such kids were less impulsive, did not get easily distracted, and had fewer tantrums. On the other hand, children who did not have enough sleep were in the worse mood and less-behaved.

According to Reut Gruber, the lead researcher, small changes in bedtime and daily routine could go a long way that just one more video game or an extended time in a friend’s house could negatively affect the daytime functioning of healthy children. Signs that children do not get sufficient sleep include yawning, drowsiness, impulsiveness, short attention span, and hyperactivity.

Colin Espie, UK sleep expert Professor has the same sentiments. He said the worst effect of poor sleep based on the results of the Great British Sleep Survey, is not how people feel at night but during the day. He added that poor sleepers were found to be 3 times more likely to struggle to concentrate, and twice less likely to become productive and experience low mood.

How much sleep do children need?

The researchers recommend 10 to 11 hours of sleep every night for primary school-aged children. In their report, they mentioned that most children go to bed later than 9pm and almost 43% of boys aged 10-11 do not get enough sleep.

Below is the recommended amount of sleep for children based on their age:

        ●    1-4 Months Old: 14 - 15 hours per day

        ●    4-12 Months Old: 14 - 15 hours per day

        ●    1-3 Years Old: 12 - 14 hours per day

        ●     3-6 Years Old: 10 - 12 hours per day

        ●     7-12 Years Old: 10 - 11 hours per day

        ●    12-18 Years Old: 8 - 9 hours per day

Tips to get your child sleep more

Is your child not running out of reasons to stay up for a little longer at night? You are not alone. Majority of parents experience this. Well, there are ways to encourage your child to sleep early: 

        ●      Set a regular bedtime. If it’s 9 o’clock, so be it. If it’s 9.30, stick to it. Ensuring that they are already in bed at a specific time is one way to make sure they get enough sleep. This will also help their body get used to sleeping at that time that even without looking at the clock, they will already feel sleepy.

        ●       No to electronics. At least 30 minutes before bedtime, do not allow your kids to hold their mobile phones or PC tablets.

        ●       Make them feel comfortable. A nice, soft and comfortable sleep will surely take your little angels to a deep slumber. Make it a habit to change beddings at least once every two weeks and keep their bedrooms clean.

        ●       A warm bath will do. A bit of relaxation before finally falling asleep really helps. Let them have a warm bath, listen to mellow music, or read them a book.

        ●       Encourage them to exercise. Exercising at daytime can have a positive impact on your child’s quality of sleep at night. Don’t do this before bedtime because it might keep them awake instead.

Sources of this article:

Impact of Sleep Extension and Restriction on Children’s Emotional Lability and Impulsivity, Reut Gruber et al, Pediatrics November 2012

Professor Colin Espie, author, co-founder of Sleepio

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