Paediatric researchers suggest that good sleep affects more than the mood of a child, it also affects the child’s health. According to recent findings sleep is as important as nutrition and exercise as it concerns the health of the child. It is during sleep that the body repackages neurotransmitters; these are chemicals that enable brain cells to communicate. Experts also say that sleep helps the body get rid of toxins in the body each night.
A study conducted in Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia showed that the consequences of sleep deprivation are visible in children just after four nights of not getting adequate sleep. The senior author, Penny Corkum Ph. D. in an article on the magazine “Parents” stated that they expected to see some difference when children get inadequate sleep but that they were shocked to find out that the consequences come up so quickly and drastically.
The benefits of a good night’s sleep to a child cannot be overemphasised. Some of them include:
•Sleep promotes growth
Dr. Judith Owens M.D says that for children the growth hormone is primarily secreted during deep sleep. So, if it seems like your baby grew bigger overnight it might not be your eyes deceiving you. Nature protects babies by making sure that they spend about 5o% of the time in this deep sleep that encourages growth. Italian researchers have discovered that children with deficient levels of growth sleep less deeply than their counterparts who do not suffer from this deficiency.
•Sleep aids proper weight
Studies have shown that children who get less than 10 hours sleep a night are three times more likely to be obese as opposed to kids who get 12 hours of sleep or more every night. Also research shows that when we eat to our fill, our body sends out the hormone “leptin” which signals us to stop sleeping. However, sleep deprivation can override this hormone so that kids just keep on eating. Dorit Koren M.D, who is a paediatric endocrinologist and sleep researcher at the University of Chicago states that over time children who don’t get adequate sleep become overweight. She also states that children who are worn out eat differently from those that are well rested. Research shows that children and adults crave higher fat or higher carb foods when they are tired. Tired children also burn fewer calories as they are less active than well rested children.
•Sleep aids in the fight against germs
During sleep children and adults produce cytokines which aids the body in battling infections. Research shows that too little sleep affects the amount of cytokines produced. In fact, adults who sleep fewer than 7 hours per night are thrice at risk of developing a cold when exposed to that virus as opposed to their counterparts that sleep for 7 hours or more. Studies of teenagers have also shown that illnesses have declined with longer night sleep.
•Sleep increases attention span
Research has shown that the symptoms of sleep deprivation and ADHD which include impulsivity and distractibility closely mirror each other. This simply means that tired kids can be impulsive and distracted even if they don’t have ADHD. Experts say that adding as little as 27 minutes more of sleep time for school age children goes a long way in helping them manage their moods and impulses so that they can focus better on their school work. While sleep will not eliminate the stress of their school day, it equips them better to cope with it.
•It boosts learning
Sleep aids learning in kids of all ages. That’s why many schools encourage a nap time after break for children. Neuroscientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst taught a group of 40 pre-schoolers a game similar to Memory. Then the kids took a nap (averaging 77 minutes) one week and stayed awake the other week. When they stayed awake they forgot 15% of what they’d learnt, but when they napped they retained everything.
The kids scored better on the game not only after they’d just woken up but the next day too. Even with new born babies, a lot of learning goes on while they sleep. Researchers at Columbia University Medical Centre show this fact. Investigators played certain sounds for sleeping new-borns, followed with a gentle puff of air on their eyelids. Within 20 minutes, the sleeping babies — who were between 1 and 2 days old — had already learned to anticipate the air puff by squinting.
Better sleep will definitely help you have a happier child; it would also help you have a healthy child.
By Waire Emonefe