There are few things that affect the family dynamic like lost sleep. While all parents want their children to enjoy long, uninterrupted nights, achieving a consistent sleep routine is easier said than done. And the knock-on effects of troubled sleep can be significant.
Sleep is integral to our physical and mental health. Whilst as adults, we can balance the odd bout of sleep deprivation with a boost of caffeine or an early night the following day, kids aren’t always as adept at compensating.
During those early years, children need all the sleep they can get to grow, mentally and physically recover, boost immunity, and prepare for the challenges and experiences of the day ahead. Worryingly, however, recent research has found that children around the world are not getting the sleep they need to unlock these benefits.
Let’s take a closer look at these troubling statistics behind child sleep issues and what the effects of lost sleep is doing to our newest generation.
Are kids in the UK getting enough sleep?
It’s well documented that parents typically lose several days’ worth of sleep during the first year of raising a child. This in itself is a concerning thought. But even more worrying is the thought that children are also falling short of their sleep requirements.
According to one report in Science Daily, instances of sleep problems among newborns and infants is extremely common. In fact, 40% of parent participants in one Finnish study expressed a concern over the sleep loss being suffered by their 8-month-old children.
Reassuringly, sleep typically settled down by the age of two with sleep patterns becoming more “stable and consistent”. However, according to the findings from the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF), who recently surveyed 6,000 children and young people aged between 6 and 16 years, sleep issues later in childhood are also now a growing concern.
The research showed that a third of primary school pupils were getting less than 9 hours of sleep per night. That statistic means that during crucial formative years, far too many children simply aren’t getting the 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night recommended by the National Sleep Foundation for children between 6 and 13 years. The situation is even worse for secondary school children, with seven in 10 getting less than 9 hours of sleep per night.
The BNF went onto reveal the effects that lack of sleep can have. Children getting below the recommended amount of sleep tend to make poorer, unhealthy food choices by day and with this, increase the risk of childhood obesity.
What can you do to support better sleep right now?
Laying the foundation for good sleep habits starts early in life. In fact, ensuring that the whole family is sleeping soundly can be crucial to the health and wellbeing for parents, newborns and indeed older siblings in the home.
It is important for parents to understand that asking for help, advice and guidance to instil a good sleep routine is not a sign of poor parenting. In fact, bringing in the help of a baby sleep consultant or a sleep therapy coach can help families move towards healthier sleep habits more quickly than would otherwise be possible. The impact of sleep deprivation on cognitive function, appetite, metabolism and energy levels is so profound that parents should never simply accept that restless nights are the norm. Instead, a patient but proactive approach to creating better sleep hygiene and a replicable routine is always preferable.