Why they’re losing sleep and what you can do about it.
Being a child today is much different than childhood just a generation or two ago. In fact, it’s safe to say their bodies were not made to function as well in our current environment. We’ve written several articles on the topic of healthy sleep, and how the lack of it affects their growth and development. I can recognize when a child has disordered sleep the moment they walk into my office. I’m passionate about helping kids get the sleep they need, and it’s part of my practice to nurture and heal children’s sleep.
Why are kids today having more disordered sleep? The book I recommend to my patients, Sleep-Wrecked Kids, discusses changes in the way children eat as babies and our environment and modern lifestyle play a major role.
There was a time, not that many centuries ago, when we ate tougher foods, had to chew more vigorously, and our jaws were wider to support that. Malocclusions or a “bad bite” did not exist. The human jaw was large enough to fit all the teeth, even the wisdom teeth. Then in the mid 1800s, with industrialism, our diets became softer, and thus, our jaws became smaller. Children starting growing up with crooked teeth and narrower airways, leading to airway-caused sleep disorders.
On top of that, our environment and lifestyles have change dramatically, wreaking havoc on sleep cycles. This causes disordered sleep, which is different from sleep disorders. Children’s bodies are made for 8+ hours of uninterrupted sleep. This is not just for the rest they need, but to give their brain the opportunity to develop. Their brain does its best work at night, during deep sleep. Their use of phones, tablets, TVs, computer monitors expose them to blue light, which suppresses melatonin, which is needed for good sleep.
When kids are put to bed, that doesn’t mean the house is dark and quiet. Kids may have their phone by their bed, nightlights, lights outside the window, noise from the TV in another room, etc. There are many distractions to good sleep. Fragmented sleep is not good sleep.
As a parent, you may not recognize the signs that your child is not getting the rest they need. Their irritability or tiredness may be assumed to be from having a bad day, when it may be bad nights. Poor performance in school, especially if the teacher says they have trouble concentrating could be from poor sleep.
Even if your child seems perfectly normal, this book encourages parents to become the lifeguard of their child’s sleep. Watch for the signs. More importantly, put positive measures in place to ensure good sleep. Reduce screen time, encourage healthy diet and exercise, and create a sleep environment that promotes deep, uninterrupted sleep.