There are two factors which affect how sleepy and how alert your child is.  The first is dependent on how long it has been since your child last slept.  This is called the sleep-wake balance.  If your child stays awake for too long, then the sleep-wake balance will be off, and your child will feel sleepy.  The second factor has to do with your child’s internal clock.

Your child has an internal clock built into it.  This clock controls the “circadian rhythms” in your child’s body. The word “circadian” means to occur in a 24-hour cycle. These rhythms tell your child’s body when it is time to sleep at night and when it is time to be awake during the day.  Hormones are connected to the body’s circadian rhythms.  Melatonin is produced in order to fall asleep, and cortisol wakes your child up in the morning.  

Before puberty, children generally feel sleepy between 8:00-9:00 pm.  During puberty, your child may feel sleepy between 10:00-11:00 pm.  Darkness encourages melatonin production, which in turn promotes sleep.  Conversely, too much light may delay or diminish melatonin production, which may inhibit sleepiness.

Sleep is important for your child for many reasons.  When children sleep, they are growing, secreting hormones, building, resting, fasting and repairing.  According to PubMed, prospective and cross-sectional studies show that short sleep duration is associated with a wide range of negative physical, social, emotional, and cognitive outcomes including poor concentration, impaired academic achievement, an increased risk of obesity, depression, suicide ideation, and injuries.

How to encourage restful sleep in your child:

  1. Consider sunlight exposure for the child in the morning; even just five minutes is beneficial.
  2. Ensure that your child gets exercise during the day to rid pent-up energy before bed.
  3. Establish regular bedtime hours for child.  
  4. Block red and blue lights in the room/ keep the room as dark as possible.
  5. Cheese may be a good bedtime snack; avoid heavy eating or high protein before bed.
  6. Consider offering your child a nighttime herbal tea before bed.  Herbs such as chamomile, passionflower, valerian, and hops are calming to the body.
  7. Promote reading over screen time as a bedtime ritual.

Happy zzz’s to all!


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