You know your child needs a good rest every night, but do you realize just how important sleep is for your preschooler? Your little one is constantly busy, and the preschool years keep both their bodies and minds active. Making sleep a priority can really help your child focus, learn, grow, and avoid meltdowns. Read on to see just what some extra sleep can do for your little one.
Your preschooler is still physically growing and developing, and sleep is the main time when this growth is taking place. There are growth hormones that are secreted during sleep, and slow or stunted growth can result when your child doesn’t get enough rest. An average preschooler needs 11-13 hours of sleep a day: almost half of their day needs to be spent sleeping! While some children are still napping during this time, others are constantly on the go and really need those nighttime hours of sleep. Sleep is when your child grows taller, and their organs and tissues experience growth and development as well. All of the energy your little one uses while they are awake can be diverted during sleep to growth. When children do not get regular, adequate amounts of sleep their growth can suffer.
With an epidemic of obesity in this country, you should take steps to ensure that your child is not overweight. Sleep can influence a child’s weight, and getting too little sleep can lead to your child becoming overweight. Sleep deprivation can affect the hormone leptin, which signals us to stop eating. When this hormone is disrupted, the cues that we are satiated may not be read correctly and lead to overeating. A lack of sleep, in both adults and children, can lead to craving higher-fat and higher-carbohydrate foods, and a lack of sleep can cause your child to be less active. All of these factors work together to create a breeding ground for weight gain. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep to remain active, be able to listen to their body’s cues, and to avoid the obesity epidemic.
During our resting hours is also the time when the body fights off infections and illnesses. Proteins called cytokines are produced during sleep and help the body to stay healthy. If your child doesn’t get enough sleep, they are more likely to pick up whatever bug is floating around. They also can be overly sleepy when they are awake, as cytokines make the body tired in an effort to induce sleep and healing. If you want your preschooler to stay healthy, and be able to fight off the many germs they encounter during the day, make sure they get enough sleep.
As adults, we know how we feel at work after a sleepless night. Our bodies are slow, our brains are fuzzy, and we can’t concentrate as well. There have been studies that show that children with higher IQs slept longer than their peers, and suggest that even small, consistent sleep deficits can heave negative consequences on the brain. If you want your preschooler to be able to focus, retain what they are learning, and have their mind at optimal performance, help them to get the right amount of sleep. Along with brain function, sleep seems to affect attention span. Hyperactivity and ADHD are much more common in children that sleep fewer than 10 hours a night before the age of 3. The symptoms of ADHD and sleep deprivation are strikingly similar, with impulsivity, distractibility, and irritability as hallmarks of each. Even giving children slightly longer sleep times can make them more focused and better able to retain what they are learning. Keep your child’s brain sharp, their attention focused, and their minds ready to learn with plenty of sleep.
Besides being great for their minds, sleep can also help keep your child safe from physical injuries. Children are more clumsy when they don’t get enough sleep, which can lead to falls and scrapes. Not only that, but studies have shown that the majority of kids with 2 or more injuries in a year got fewer than nine hours of sleep a night. Knowing that your child is at an increased risk of injury is a great reason to make sure that sleep is a priority. Keep their minds and their bodies protected with adequate amounts of sleep.
You know that when your preschooler gets tired, they get cranky and upset. It is hard to regulate your emotions when you are overtired, and your preschooler can be grumpy, irritable, and irrational when they are too tired. Your child will be a better playmate if they get enough sleep, and their relationships will be better. Aggression and bullying could be the result of not enough sleep in some children. There is also research that points to a link between sleep in childhood and mental health problems later in life. If there is even a chance that a lack of sleep as a child and depression, anxiety, or substance abuse as an adult could be related, you want to ensure that your child’s mental health is protected.
You want your child to be alert and awake during their day, and not to be hindered by fatigue. A lack of energy could hinder your child during school time, and also in any extracurricular activities they make have. A fatigued child will not be as interested in exploring, and might miss out on some great learning opportunities. If your child seems unusually tired during the day, consider how much sleep they are getting at night.
So you can see how important sleep is for your preschooler, but sometimes getting that sleep isn’t easy. Preschoolers can have a hard time sleeping for many different reasons, including:
- Nightmares: No one really knows at what age children begin to dream, but preschoolers are often vocal about dreams they have had. This is also the age when nightmares, and a fear of the dark, can begin to disrupt sleep and leave your child distraught. Help your child to avoid nightmares by ensuring they have a good bedtime routine, a favorite stuffed animal, a nightlight, or anything else that comforts them. Your child will eventually outgrow having as many nightmares. Related to nightmares, are night terrors where your child wakes up agitated and crying, but is still somewhat asleep. Night terrors can be frightening for parents as well, but be assured that most kids will just grow out of them.
- Sleepwalking: Your child’s immature central nervous system, or being overtired, can result in sleepwalking. This can happen several times during the evening, and even if your child never fully wakes up can really disrupt the amount of good sleep they get. Your child will outgrow sleepwalking.
- Bedwetting: Bedwetting can sometimes be due to anxiety, but oftentimes there is no real reason this nighttime hindrance happens. Bedwetting can interfere with sleep, so speak to your pediatrician if you are concerned.
Having a consistent bedtime for your preschooler, and a comforting bedtime routine, are the most important things you can do to ensure they get the sleep they need. Know that preschoolers go through short phases when they may have difficulties sleeping, but that these usually quickly pass.
So to ensure that your preschooler is ready for each day with energy and focus, make sure they are getting enough sleep! Child Time’s preschool program in Salt Lake City is perfect for your child’s eager mind, and will give them the mental and physical playtime they need. As the upcoming school year approaches, make sure your child is well rested, and call us if you would like to enroll!