Making Sleep a Family Priority
Please teach your child that sleep is valuable and essential, and that many important functions take place during sleep. Deep sleep coincides with the release of growth hormone in children. An increase in production of proteins for cell growth and repair of damaged tissue occurs during sleep. Cytokines, the chemicals our immune systems produce while fighting an infection, are powerful sleep-inducing chemicals; sleep helps the body conserve energy and other resources that the immune system needs to mount an attack. While sleeping, our short-term memories are consolidated into our long-term memory, essential for learning; the absence of sleep compromises our capacity for committing new experiences to memory.
CHILDREN AGED 5 TO 12 NEED 10 TO 11 HOURS OF SLEEP. Inadequate sleep can lead to mood swings, impaired concentration and judgment, slowed reaction time, poorer work performance, increase in work errors and accidents, tissue-damaging inflammation, and a depressed immune response to infection. Certainly this has an impact on your child’s ability to learn in school.
- Establish a regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
- Make the bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.
- Televisions, computers, tablets & phones need to be OUT OF THE BEDROOM. Watching TV close to bedtime has been associated with bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep, anxiety around sleep and sleeping fewer hours. Light from a TV or computer screen inhibits the release of melatonin from the pineal gland; melatonin is a hormone that makes us drowsy.
- Caffeine should not be part of a child’s diet, especially in the afternoon and at night.
When are you getting enough sleep? When you are waking refreshed WITHOUT AN ALARM CLOCK and are not drowsy during the daytime. For detailed information, see sleepforkids.org (the Sleep Diary would be helpful for you to print out for your child) and the National Sleep Foundation and National Institute of Health websites.
I’m frequently seeing children who come to school dehydrated, having had maybe 4 fluid ounces of juice or milk and no water before school. Children only have 8 fluid ounces of milk with school lunches; school juices are only 4 ounces. They are not drinking much, maybe an ounce, at the water fountain. Please have your child drink at least 8 ounces of water before school each day and immediately after school. Your child is welcome to carry a canteen of PLAIN WATER at school. Make sure to have several canteens so that canteens can dry thoroughly between uses.
Children are more susceptible to dehydration than adults because their body surface area makes up a much greater proportion of their overall weight than that of adults. They also may not know warning signs of dehydration (dry mouth, thirst, fatigue, muscle weakness, headache, dizziness). Please teach them that by the time they feel thirsty, they are already dehydrated. Also teach them to assess hydration by looking at the color of urine (this only works with a white toilet). Urine should be clear or very pale yellow, except for the first urination in the morning, when it is more concentrated and a deeper yellow. Keep in mind that some vitamins, foods, and medications can intensify color or change color of urine.
Parents know to keep their children hydrated in hot weather, but sometimes forget how dehydrating indoor heating can be in winter. Heated indoor air will cause skin and lungs to lose more moisture.