Roughly a third of our lives are spent sleeping, yet we tend to regard this part of the day as insignificant. Once thought to be the result of a dip in metabolism or mental activity, scientific study has revealed that sleep includes times of tremendous brain activity vital to restoration. A good night’s sleep boosts our immune system, decreases stress, improves memory function, clears out neurotoxins, and speeds cellular growth. Sleep deprivation leads to brain fog, impaired judgment, slowed reflexes, and increased injuries. Over the long haul, poor sleep raises the risk for major health challenges, including depression, diabetes, and poor heart health.
So how much sleep do we need? This changes throughout our life cycle. Infants typically need as much as 17 hours of sleep per day, and as children age, they need less sleep. Guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation indicate that toddlers require 11-14 hours, preschoolers and kindergartners 10-13 hours, kids in elementary and middle school 9-11 hours, and teens 8-10 hours. Adults need 7-9 hours. During a growth spurt or while overcoming illness, people need more sleep to recover. Though individual sleep needs vary, few people fall outside of these ranges.
With the start of school, kids are getting used to going to bed on time and waking up early. For adults, this often means waking earlier as well. Ensuring that everyone is getting enough good quality sleep is essential. Adults generally appear fatigued when they lack sleep; however, signs of sleep deficiency aren’t always as obvious in kids. Rather than looking sleepy, children may appear hyperactive or have difficulty focusing. Sleep loss can cause emotional dysregulation resulting in aggression and behavioral challenges.
Sadly, many kids aren’t getting the sleep they need. Long days in school paired with extracurricular activities may not allow enough time to wind down. Late-night athletic practices may prevent kids from falling asleep at an early hour. Adolescents’ sleep cycles shift to later in the evening, while most high schools have the earliest start times of any age group.
So how do we help ourselves and our kids get the best sleep possible? Good sleep hygiene can help make the most of the hours available. Here are some tips from sleep experts:
All this information may seem overwhelming at first, so choose one or two things to focus on. Before you know it, everyone will be sleeping better, and that’s a win-win!