As daylight savings makes sunset later and later, it is tempting to keep children up past their normal bedtimes, but doing so can have consequences. Without adequate sleep, children can quickly become cranky and irritable. When overtired some children may have trouble falling asleep; others staying asleep. Sleep deprivation can result in a number of issues such as:
- Depressed mood
- Reduced energy
- Weakened immune system
- Reduced thresholds for stress
- Altered hormone production
- Impaired wound healing
All of us have experienced lack of sleep at one time or another and can appreciate how important sleep is to our daily lives. Children are no different and in fact require more sleep than you may think. Children of preschool, kindergarten and elementary ages need at least 10 to 12 hours per night. Sleep restores the body on all levels: cellular, endocrine, immune, metabolic, physical and emotional.
Fortunately there are some simple things parents can do to help children develop and maintain healthy sleep habits:
- Allow your child(ren) a lot of fresh air and exercise in the afternoon.
- Keep activities quiet after dinnertime. Avoid television and computer games after dinner. Play a family game or read together instead.
- Establish and keep to a set bedtime that allows for at least 10-12 hours of sleep every night.
- Establish and keep to a bedtime routine:
- Take a warm bath 30-minutes before bedtime. Sipping a warm drink like warm milk or caffeine-free tea helps too.
- Put on comfy pajamas and get straight into bed (the body is now ready for sleep due to changes in body temperature).
- Read one short story and turn out lights (if using a nightlight, make sure it is dim).
- Put on soft, soothing music (or white noise that is soft and consistent).
Consider blackout shades for windows to block out the summer evening sun and make it easier to settle down for the night. As the temperatures outside get warmer, consider leaving a fan running all night to provide white noise and keep body temperatures cool.About the Article’s Author: Joan Starling, Founder, Sammamish Montessori School serving preschool, kindergarten and elementary students in Redmond WA. Joan established The Sammamish Montessori School in 1977. She began her long career in Montessori education training under two Montessori educators who were themselves trained directly by Dr. Maria Montessori. One of them, a wise and practical woman, Margaret Homfray, when young in the late 1930s, accompanied Dr. Montessori on trips to translate her lectures on her speaking tours. Joan has been a pioneer of Montessori education in the greater Seattle area, establishing one of the oldest Montessori schools on Seattle’s Eastside and now one of the largest Montessori schools in the state. Joan’s two daughters, Director Janet Villella and Business Manager Hilary Prentice now share the running of the school and are supported by a wonderful group of teachers, assistants and supporting staff from all over the world.