Approximately 62% of children in elementary school are operating with a one hour sleep deficit. By high school, most kids have upped their deficits to two hours per night.
The average teenager needs about nine hours of sleep per night but is getting less than seven. Teens who get less than 6.5 hours of sleep per night are at double the risk of having high-blood pressure.
Children who don’t get enough sleep also tend to be overweight. The drive for sleep, food, sex and thirst are all governed by the same part of the brain. When the body doesn’t get enough sleep, it compensates with extra food.
There are a number of ways to help your children to get enough sleep.
- Enforce bedtime, even on the weekends. This helps to establish and maintain the body’s rhythm
- Exercise, but no later than two hours before bedtime. Activity can help children have deeper, better quality sleep. Being too active too close to bedtime, however, can be more stimulating than restful.
- Limit the caffeine that sneaks into your child diet through chocolate, chocolate drinks, iced tea, pop and energy drinks.
- Keep TV out of the bedroom and turn off electronics like the computer, television, video games, etc. an hour before bedtime. These things stimulate the mind and can make it difficult to fall asleep. Give you children time to wind down and relax before they go to bed.
- Encourage children to nap on weekends. Even teenagers benefit from a midday snooze when they can grab one. This can help to compensate a bit for any deficit that has built up through the week.
It’s hard to operate on a sleep deficit, and it’s especially hard for kids to function. Given the serious consequences of sleep deprivation, it is worthwhile to help children get the shuteye they need. – Jen R, Staff Writer
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