Ensure children get enough sleep each night

January 7, 2014

Tired children may have developed the wrong sleeping habits.

Most parents know the importance of making sure their young children get the appropriate amount of sleep. Not only will kids be able to perform better if they get enough rest, but they can also be better behaved. A recent study published in the journal Mind, Brain and Education and reported on by The Associated Press showed that the secret could be to get their body clocks aligned with bedtime.

Get children to develop good sleep habits
Monique LeBourgeois of the University of Colorado, lead researcher on the study and sleep scientist, told The AP that a child’s sleep habits are extremely important, and they can affect them later in life. In the study, she tried to gauge melatonin – a hormone that regulates sleep and wake cycles – levels in kids and how it related to their sleep.

She and her team found that when preschoolers who had a rise in melatonin  around 7:40 p.m. and were tucked into bed at approximately 8:10 p.m. were able to fall asleep about a half hour later, while kids who had a jolt of melatonin earlier in the night fell asleep more quickly. The key could be to dim the lights earlier in the night, which could be a good way to get children to settle down and get ready to rest.

LeBourgeois told The AP it’s hard to find what would be considered the “sweet spot,” but she believes that when melatonin peaks about an hour before bedtime, kids may be able to fall asleep more easily.

Dr. Jyoti Krishna, a pediatric sleep expert at the Cleveland Clinic, added that there can be a number of factors that affect a child’s sleep cycle, “but this paper reminds us that, hey, there is a time that the body is more ready to sleep than at other times.” Parents who take this into account may be able to help their kids fall asleep more quickly and get better rest.

Melatonin can lead to better exercise
Parents who want their kids to kids get more sleep should also think about getting them involved in activities in which they exercise. According to an article for Livestrong.com, melatonin can repair muscle damage for people who take part in strenuous exercise. This is why kids who participate in martial arts classes should be sure to get enough sleep. Karate, Tae Kwon Do or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu require high concentration and well-rested bodies. Without either, children won’t be able to advance in their training as they would like.

With higher levels of melatonin, children will be able to have stronger muscles when they go to their martial arts classes. The website stated that the muscle damage caused by exercise can be greatly reduced, citing a study published in the Journal of Pineal Research. Parents of children who are involved in Karate, Tae Kwon Do or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu need to make sure their kids are getting the appropriate amount of rest.