Sleep is an essential part of your health. It affects everything from your body's ability to heal itself to how you feel emotionally.
But if you're like many parents and caregivers, you might not have given sleep much thought. After all, it's just something that happens—a necessary evil that comes with parenthood. However, the truth is that sleep isn't just a necessary evil; it's a critical part of your child's development and overall health.
In this blog post, we'll look at what sleep does for children and adults alike. We'll talk about how much sleep children need and how to help them get enough rest. We'll also cover what happens when kids don't get enough sleep, and why it can be so damaging to their development. Finally, we'll provide some tips for helping your kids get more restful nights.
You can listen to the audio below or see the transcribed text for more details.
Hi, it is Dr. Derkson here with a second video. Do keep in mind that the following is my own personal opinion and does not constitute medical advice. Please make sure to follow up with your own healthcare practitioner before making any major changes to your diet or lifestyle to ensure that these changes are right for you.
Now from where I left off last, I want to focus on the parts of our lifestyle that are within our control. I am talking about the parts of our life that we have the most direct ability to change and specifically the ones that most strongly impact our own health and the health of our children. And as I mentioned in the first video, this will likely help us reduce the chances of a severe case of COVID19. Today I chose one aspect of our lives that is arguably the most important one - sleep. If you know me, you may have thought I was going to choose diet, but instead, you’ll have to wait to hear that one. Now full disclosure and recognition to one among many individuals that has greatly influenced my understanding of sleep and its value in our lives, Matthew Walker. He’s performed extensive studies and research on sleep, and he is the source of the majority of the information I’m bringing up today, along with his book, Why We Sleep, and many of his appearances on the podcasts I follow. Matthew Walker is a Ph.D. in neurophysiology, he’s a professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley and is in my opinion one of the most sleep scientists out there. Since he is not only asking the right questions and doing the necessary studies, but he is also promoting the importance of sleep to those in charge that can make population and country-based changes. If you have not heard of him, please look him up and listen and watch some of his interviews; in the meantime, I will try and interpret some of his research and convey his message about the importance of sleep. I will also provide some recommendations on how to support our children and their precious sleep.
Hey, this helps parents get their quiet night time and remember, parents you should probably going to bed shortly after your children. So, where to start on a subject so vast as sleep well the most important aspect of sleep is the impact on the immune system. Studies have shown that a single night of sleep deprivation can negatively affect the immune system and result in a 70% reduction in specific lines of immune cells. And from the other direction, when we do get sick, our immune system will often signal to activate our sleep system. This is the reason why we often sleep and rest more when we are sick to allow the immune system to kick into high gear. Clearly, our health and wellness is linked to our sleep.
We can also look at the most universal problem parents deal with “My child did not sleep well overnight” and, “Today he or she is in a bad mood,” or “my baby did not get their napping and its cranking fussy” we could replace the subject with child or baby or parent or adult and still get the same outcome. We have all experienced poor sleep or lack of sleep that has negatively affected our mood or attitude, one study performed by Matthew Walker and his team that showed this phenomenon of emotional irrationality following sleep loss involved healthy young adults split into two groups, one group stayed awake all night monitored on the full supervision while the other group slept normally. During the brain scanning session the next day, participants in both groups were shown the same one hundred pictures that ranged from neutral and emotional content such as a basket or a piece of wood to emotionally negative like a burning house or a venomous snake about to strike.
Using this emotional gradient or pictures, they were able to compare the increasing brain response to increase only negative emotional triggers. When Matthew Walker and his team analyzed these brain scans, they found very significant effects in one particular structure of the brain called the amygdala, which is a key hotspot for triggering strong emotions such as anger and rage. The amygdala showed 60% amplification and reactivity in the participants who were sleep deprived. This research and the results were shown again in japan with only restricting participants' sleep to five hours for five nights.
Now return to the situation described before, the sleep-deprived child or parent and then consider the following scenario playing out and in full disclosure, it has on occasion happened in our house labelling when our youngest son Jacob wakes up during the night for one reason or another. The story being that we are all sleep deprived the next morning, and now our son is reacting with more emotion, which could be yelling or crying or some form of aggression to a seemingly calm and innocent problem like spilling some water or not finding a toy, the sleep-deprived parent myself or my wife may be less patient, may also tend to be more emotionally reactive and sometime may say something that is out of character for us “Look at the mess you made” or “You always lose things”. This situation could spiral out of control quickly, especially if we as parents forget to acknowledge the sleep-deprived state.
So please, be conscious of this state and its impact on our behaviour, especially as it relates to our children. As an interesting side note, Matthew Walker further explored the emotional reactivity and sleep-deprived people and founded also included the positive reward centres, thereby increasing the response the rewarding, pleasurable experiences. To summarize, insufficiency of sleep results in excessive swings to both extremes of emotions, positive and negative. It is important that parents acknowledge this phenomenon of emotional reactivity and work on preventing it to happen, which can be accomplished by maintaining an appropriate and consistent sleep schedule for every individual in the family; and my last few comments about the lack of sleep on health may sound shocking but once again I'm just providing some need to know information. And I like this quote from Matthew Walker and his book “Why We Sleep” that sums it up “No facid of human body is spared to crippling noxious harm of sleep loss.”
We are socially, organizationally, economically, physically, behaviourally, nutritionally, linguistically, cognitively and emotionally dependent upon sleep. This includes the relationship of lack of sleep to increase car accidents, poor memory and dementia, increase risk of cancer and heart attacks, increase incidents of diabetes and obesity and ultimately, a shorter life. So every major system, tissue and organ of our body suffers when sleep becomes short, this is why I decided to focus on sleep before diet or exercise. Also, if we get adequate sleep, then we will have the energy and motivation to make healthier diet choices and to include more movement, exercise in our daily schedule. So i urge everyone to put a larger value on sleep and prioritize it for yourself and for your children for everyone's health and wellness.
Okay, now that we really understand the importance of sleep and the negatives from lack of sleep, how do we improve our own sleep and then of our children? Well, once again, let's stick to the basics, its called sleep hygiene which is the medical way of saying keep your sleep neat, orderly and consistent. A quick side notes before I get into some advice, I often get asked how much sleep should i get or should my children get; well total sleep time does vary based on age and other factors, but the general consensus is 7-8 hours a night for adults, adults 10 hours a night for school-age children and the adolescents and if you have a preschooler at home then it is 11-12 hours a day and could be up to 16-18 hours a day for newborns, which includes naps during the day.
Okay, here is the modified list of typical sleep hygiene recommendations for parents and their children; the most important is stick to a consistent sleep schedule, go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends. During the day, trying and get some sunlight which helps maintain the internal day and night cycle, also known as the circadian rhythm, exercise is great but not too late in the day and to work out between 2-3 hours before bedtime and instead of exercise before bed, looking into relaxing activities like reading or colouring or listening to chill music its a good idea to have a regular bedtime routine, its a good idea to have a regular bedtime routine which helps to ease the transition into sleep, especially for children. Create the right environment in the bedroom, get rid of distractions in the bedroom, especially any screens, bright lights or noises, keep the temperature on the lower side. A hot bath or shower can help; it is relaxing and results in a drop in body temperature, which is known to help with falling asleep. For adults, avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in the evening, alcohol.. has a reputation for being a sedative, but the science says it keeps you in a lighter stage of sleep which isn’t good. Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants; for adults and children, avoid large meals and beverages late at night, watch out for some medications and over-the-counter remedies that may disrupt your sleep; if they are needed, then take them earlier in the day. For adults, don’t take naps after 3 pm especially if you have a hard time falling asleep and limit naps to under an hour. The same nap policy could be applied to children in certain circumstances.
I will add a few more tips for parents to apply to children, continue to educate and have discussions, talk about the importance of sleep. The positives from adequate sleep and the negatives from lack of sleep and of course, role model, practice what you preach. If you or your children are having trouble sleeping or someone is not feeling refreshed after a proper night of sleep, then please consult your family doctor or other health care practitioner to further access the issue. Okay, that is it for now, and don't forget it will not be easy, and it will not be perfect, but it needs to be emphasized and encouraged to make sleep a priority.
Stay strong, healthy and positive.
See you next time.