Any parent will tell you that kids and sleep don't always go well together, and that getting kids to sleep and ensuring they receive enough sleep can be a daily fight. The value of sleep for children cannot be overstated. Children who get enough sleep have better general mental and physical health, as well as improved performance in learning, attention, memory, and conduct.
In an interaction with the OnlyMyHealth Editorial team, Dr Prashant Moralwar, Consultant Pediatrician, Motherhood Hospital Kharghar,Mumbai, explained all about how to manage sleep issues of children.
How Much Sleep Do Children Need?
Newborns sleep in fits and starts, going through a 24-hour cycle of feeding and sleeping. Undisturbed sleep does not begin to accumulate into longer durations until the circadian rhythm develops and is entrained at 3-4 months of age. Daytime naps become less necessary as children grow older, and are normally no longer required by the age of five, and have fully discontinued by the age of six or seven. By this age, sleep should be similar to that of adults, with one uninterrupted period of sleep at night.
How Children's Sleep Cycles Differ From Adults
The sleep cycle is the natural sequence of sleep phases, which include non-Rapid eye movement sleep(N-REM) and Rapid Eye Movement Sleep(REM). The average adult sleep cycle lasts around 90 minutes, compared to roughly 50 minutes in very young children, increasing to about 60 minutes at age of three, and reaching adult duration by about five years of age.
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Slow-wave or deep sleep are other names for the N-REM 3 sleep state. This is a vital stage for regeneration, growth, and development. Rapid eye movement sleep is especially critical for infants. It contributes to brain growth as well as the consolidation of events into memory and learning. Newborns and babies will spend almost twice as much time in REM sleep as adults.
The body's voluntary muscles are immobilised during REM sleep- this is regarded to be a protective strategy to prevent us from "acting out" our dreams. Because this function is not completely formed in neonates, babies are prone to violent jerking and twitching during sleep, which can cause them to wake.
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The brain function that paralyses the muscles during REM sleep does not mature properly until the second six months of life.
How Can A Parent Tell If Their Child Is Sleeping Enough?
A youngster who does not receive enough sleep may:
- Be energetic throughout the daytime (especially younger children)
- Have difficulty paying attention, struggle with schoolwork, be grouchy, whiny, irritated, or moody, or have behavioural issues
What Can Help Children Sleep?
Set up a nightly routine that fosters appropriate sleep habits for children of all ages. According to Dr Prashant, following suggestions can help youngsters get a good night's sleep:
- Maintain a consistent nighttime routine. Parents can notify their children 30 minutes and then 10 minutes before sleep.
- Encourage older children and teenagers to establish a bedtime that provides for the full eight hours of sleep required for their age. A nightly ritual might involve brushing one's teeth, reading a book, or listening to soft music.
- At least 1 hour before night, turn off all screens (TV, computers, phones, tablets, and video games). Consider taking all electronic gadgets out of your child's bedroom.
It is imperative that healthcare practitioners are aware of the tools available to educate families about sleep and sleep problems in children. Health care practitioners who understand the importance of sleep difficulties in children will be able to deliver these "tips" to avoid sleep problems as well as analyse when sleep problems emerge and identify when behaviorally-based "tips" would enhance children's sleep. Recognising behaviour-based sleeplessness in children and giving non-pharmacologic behaviour methods are critical abilities.