Do Overtired Kids Perform As Well In School?
As a sleep consultant, an important part of my job is to teach families about the ways in which a child’s lack of sleep can impact the health and well-being of the family as a whole. Children who are well rested have been shown to demonstrate fewer behavioural problems, better appetites, stronger immune systems, improved cognitive functioning and have less mood swings.
It is clear to me as both a parent and a sleep consultant that a lack of sleep affects children at home, but I was curious to know if teachers notice the impact of a good night’s rest in their classrooms. I’ve asked a few of my clients who are teachers as well as my own children’s teachers, and the answer is always the same – an emphatic yes!
I interviewed Elissa Katzman, a certified teacher and the co-owner/operator of Young Minds Educational Services Inc., which has been offering preschool programming and behavioural support for families with young children for the past 10 years in the east end of Toronto. She told me, “we always know when a child has had less than the ideal amount of sleep for their age. Preschool aged children are still extremely visceral, and as such their behaviour is still very much affected when they are overtired. An otherwise easygoing and cheerful child who exhibits stubborn or cranky behaviour out of the blue is typically a child who has had a bad night, or who has gone to bed later than normal. Sometimes an overtired child will appear to forget our routines, or they will have a difficult time following instructions.”
Knowing that sleep is critical to our children’s overall day-to-day activities, brain functioning and coping skills, it’s important to instil healthy sleep habits at a young age. Katzman goes on to say, “lack of sleep will always adversely impact your child’s performance in school in some way, so I cannot overemphasize the importance of adopting healthy sleep habits early and continuing them throughout your child’s entire school journey.”
Here are some of my tips to ensure your child is set up for a successful night’s sleep:
Children thrive on routines. If you are constantly changing the routine up, it is confusing for children. Establish a predictable nightly routine for your child. This gives children a sense of comfort because they know what to expect. Starting a bedtime routine with a warm bath, brushing teeth, pyjamas and stories is a fabulous routine to get them ready for bed.
I’m going to echo Elissa and say I can’t emphasize enough that consistency is one of the key ingredients to have a fabulous sleeper. Life happens, activities are booked, but try your best to not overbook your children in a way that will cause an extremely overtired child, or even a late bedtime.
Make sure your child’s room is calm, peaceful and not full of distractions. Toys, turtle lights, and music are all lovely, but can wreak havoc on your little one’s sleep. Any light coming into the room is a distraction. A soft night light is ok; I suggest putting it behind a dresser to give off a soft glow.
Lastly, bedtime should be a fun and happy time! If bedtime is a stressful time of day for your family, take a step back and ask yourself why and what you can do about it. Children that have a healthy routine, proper age-appropriate bedtime and a belly full of their parents’ yummy nutritious food will be the first step to ensuring you have a great sleeper who’s ready for school.
Sleep really is everything, so let’s make sleep a priority in 2018 and stop thinking it’s something we HAVE to do. It is something we NEED to do for ourselves and our children.
Lisa Kvapil is a sleep consultant with WeeSleep, where Healthy Moms get 15% off select sleep packages. Find out more here: https://gohealthymoms.com/weesleep