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Sleep and regular bedtime routine helps children of all ages

Sleep is restorative for the brain and has long been associated with a higher incidence of behavioral problems in children, especially attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It can also help sharpen your mind, improve your heart health and help you lose weight. A new study by British Researchers also provides evidence that a regular bedtime is especially beneficial for children.

According to the report, children who had a regular bedtime, whether early or late, had fewer behavioral problems than children who did not have a regular bedtime. In fact, according to the research, the longer irregular bedtimes persisted, the more severe the difficulties. Researchers believe part of the problem could be the brain’s inability to properly mature and the disruption of the body’s natural rhythms.

Those behaviors would include things like hyperactivity, emotional problems, conduct problems and problems with their peers,” said study author Yvonne Kelly of University College in London.

The study, which was published Monday in Pediatrics, found that for children who were between the ages 3 and 5, if their parents established a regular bedtime by the time they were seven, the behavior scores improved significantly. At the beginning of the study, of the participants surveyed, almost 20 percent of 3-year-olds had no regular bedtime, compared with 9.1 percent of 5-year-olds and 8.2 percent of 7-year-olds.

Is sleep all that matters where behavior is concerned? Of course not, in fact, the lead author, Yvonne Kelly, a professor of lifecourse epidemiology at University College London, noted that regular bedtime is obviously critically important for children, but it is not the only thing, and the importance of sleep should not be exaggerated.

How much sleep is enough?

We do know that children need more sleep than adults. Medical experts suggest as much as 10 hours of sleep for many children. This can be tough with hectic schedules but even tougher given today’s common distractions such as video games, the internet and television. Medical experts suggest if you are having trouble getting your child to sleep it’s important to establish a set routine, which begins at the same time every night. Avoiding caffeine and taking computers and televisions out of a child is also beneficial.

Lack of Sleep and mental health disorders

Establishing good health patterns is not just important for your children and their behavior, but it is also important for a person’s mental health as they age. For instance, there is good evidence that chronic insomnia can provoke a number of negative changes in your body, changes which can include inflammation, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, periodontal disease, and frailty, as well as functional decline. And that list doesn’t even begin to address the numerous mental health conditions such as depression which can be exacerbated by severe sleep deprivation.

Why not give your child a gift that will pay dividends for them in the future? It’s as simple as turning off the television, engaging with your child, and establishing a nonnegotiable sleep schedule. It’s not only good for your child, it’s good for the whole family.
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