Quality Sleep and Learning - A Key to Proper Child Development

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We all know what happens when children are overtired and it's not pretty! Crying, screaming, moodiness and behavior problems galore have been associated with sleep deprivation in children.
But did you know that lack of proper sleep could also adversely affect a child's long-term ability to learn and function well in society? There is no magic formula for exactly how much sleep your individual child needs but all children need more sleep than the average adult.
Infants up to 6 months of age sleep the most, nearly 16-20 hours per day in 4-5 hour segments.
It's important to realize that infants can cry, gurgle and make many different noises when they are actually still in a light stage of sleep.
Letting your baby self-soothe itself back into a deeper sleep will allow your baby to teach itself to fall back to sleep on its own.
With toddlers an inconsistent bedtime schedule can cause difficulties.
For toddlers 10-14 hours of sleep is recommended.
Equally necessary is a bedtime ritual that is soothing and set at the same time every day.
Stuffed animals, a favorite song, a hot bath or bedtime story can help ease anxiety and give your child a sense of belonging and control at bedtime.
The need for adequate sleep for school age children has been well established.
Preschoolers need 10 - 12 hours of sleep.
Elementary school kids ages 6 - 9 need 9 - 10 hours of sleep per night.
Teens and pre teens need 8 to 9 ½ hours per night.
Teenagers, especially, rarely get enough sleep due to their keeping late nights and very early school scheduling.
Studies show that sleep deprivation and can severely impair both emotional and cognitive learning.
Overtired students not only have difficulty concentrating and retaining the classroom material but also are more likely to have problems with their temper and feelings around other students.
In addition, sleep deprived younger children are more physically clumsy resulting in more playground accidents.
So whether your child is 6 months or 16 years of age a few guidelines for successful sleep can be easily implemented:
  1. Keep a consistent bedtime routine.
    Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  2. Avoid sugar (no sodas!), caffeine and rich foods at night.
  3. Keep the bedroom dark.
    Use blackout shades, blinds or curtains that eliminate outside light, whether from a street lamp, the full moon or sunrise.
  4. Avoid TV and the computer screen before bed.
    The reflected light from TV/computer screens stimulates the brain to stay awake.
Applying these simple steps will improve the quality of your child's sleep and subsequent learning and emotional development.
They might also allow you a few extra winks as well.
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