Make Sleep a Tween Priority
Source: Tween Parent Staff
We're past the holidays and faced with the challenges that come with starting a fresh new year...expectations, commitments and the promise of change. One very concrete focus is likely to be getting family life back to "normal," if there is such a thing! It could come in the form of weaning our tweens of too much sugar...too much media...too little sleep...
Tweens Need 9 1/2 to 10 Hours of Sleep a Night
During puberty, preteen sleep needs actually increase. As a frame of reference, teenagers need about 9 hours and adults can function with 8 hours. In contrast to babies who spend at least half of their sleep time in a "deep sleep" state, by the age of 7 or 8, children spend more time in a light sleep phase and, as a result, are more likely to be awakened by noises, light, even stress.
A number of sleep-related studies have found that children, from elementary school through high school, get about an hour less sleep each night than they did 30 years ago.
Sleep Needs to be a Priority
We often associate a lack of sleep with moodiness, difficulty, forgetfulness, irritability and/or poor judgment. For a tween, physiologically, the brain needs to sleep so that it can process all that was learned during the day and be prepared to absorb new information the next day. Since children's brains aren't fully developed until after their teen years, and because a good deal of that work is done while a child is asleep, this daily lost hour (which amounts to nearly one full night's sleep each week) can have a significant impact on preteens.
On top of that, many experts agree that sleep deprivation at this age can mirror the symptoms associated with attention problems and hyperactivity. And, sleep deprivation also lowers children's immune systems, so they may be more prone to illness.
What Can We Do To Help Tweens Get More Sleep?
As children grow, it's important to help them understand the value of getting good sleep and developing positive sleep habits. Here's how parents can help.
- Keep your tween's room a sanctuary, so that it can be associated with comfort. Try to keep the bedroom conducive to sleep by keeping the light out, keeping it at a moderate temperature and ensuring peace and quiet.
- Keep the bedroom media-free to avoid interference with the primary purpose of sleep!
- Set an agreed upon bedtime (i.e., in bed by a certain time, lights out at a certain time) and try to limit drastic changes in bedtimes, even on weekends.
- Reinforce a soothing bedtime routine, much like was done in the early stages, only evolved to include tween needs (i.e., warm bath/shower, quiet reading, audio book, quiet music, even a favorite comfort object!).
- Limit media involvement (i.e., television, computer, hand-held games, etc.) and any form of rough housing at least 30 minutes before bedtime to allow for a wind down period.
- Eliminate caffeine after 2:00 pm; soft drinks and energy drinks offer stimulation that can inhibit sleep.
- Review after-school activities if they're pushing back your tween's bedtime. Work together to achieve a reasonable solution.
- Ensure that your preteen eats a healthy diet, cutting back on snacking and junk food, especially before bedtime. And, be aware of what your tween's healthy weight should be; being overweight can affect your child's sleep. Studies show that children who don't get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight, and that being overweight can make sleep problems more likely (around two thirds of children diagnosed with sleep apnea are overweight).
- Encourage physical activity, but not too close to bedtime.
- Teach time-management skills; the use of a planner can help your preteen to be prepared to better manage exceptionally active periods.
- Speak with your tween's doctor about sleep issues that seem persistent, since most sleep problems are easily treated.
Getting your tween to understand the value of sleep is a great first step. Start by sharing your understanding of the benefits associated with getting proper sleep. And, like almost everything else, walk the talk...modeling good sleep habits can illustrate your belief in the importance.