Why Sleep is Important for Children’s Development
Sleep, together with nutrition and exercise, is one of the three pillars of health, according to Harvard Medical School. As with anything that is supported by only three pillars, when one pillar falls, the whole structure fails – and this is true with the human body, especially of children.
Sleep is important for children’s development because particularly during a rested state, the body and brain manage activities that are otherwise not completely executed when the child is fully awake. Such activities include neural growth, extensive body repairs, hormone production, and millions of other cellular activities – these are generally invisible yet crucial processes that must take place every single night throughout the child’s life.
Sleep is important for brain health and development
The brain stays active even when at rest. Exactly what the brain does when a person is asleep remains a mystery to this day. However, countless studies and common observations have shown that lack of sleep can cause irritation, forgetfulness, and lack of focus. This applies to people of all ages.
For children especially, sleep is crucial as the brain is still developing. If adults cannot properly function due to losing just 2 hours of sleep each night for an entire week, imagine the impact it does to infants or primary school children.
When it comes to health, nothing in biology can be isolated and separated into neat boxes. The effect of lack of sleep will have consequences on all systems in the body.
Sleep is also important for children’s general physical health
The measurable effect of lack of sleep can be observed by scientists when studying changes in the body’s hormone composition. Hundreds of hormones have been identified to be present when a person is asleep, including hormones that regulate emotions, growth, and even as specific as satiety or fullness.
For example, leptin is a hormone that regulates the feeling of fullness after eating a meal. Lack of sleep has been shown to reduce the level of leptin, which may explain the correlation between obesity and sleep deprivation.
The effect of obesity and sleep deprivation can be worsened as children who don’t go to sleep may become hungry at night, and if they regularly eat at an unhealthy time at midnight, they will risk becoming overweight. This is one example of a negative cycle due to a lack of sleep.
How much sleep is enough?
Generally, toddlers between the age of 3 to 5 years old should sleep up to 13 hours a day. Older children should sleep up to 11 hours a day. If you find that it’s difficult to put your little ones to sleep, our school counselors at IPEKA Integrated Christian School are more than happy to help you. Contact us if you have any questions.