Why is it a good idea to start building healthy sleep habits for your children when they are young? Many problems with sleep have their roots in the habits that people develop as children. Getting enough high-quality sleep is important for everybody, but it is crucial for children with Attention Deficit Disorder.
There are ways to develop good sleep habits, also called sleep hygiene. Some of them are listed below.
• Kids always want to watch just one more show or beat one more level on their electronic games. Take the television, video games, and computers out of the room. Make your child’s bedroom a room for sleeping.
• Develop your child’s sleep routine. Start by winding his day down. Don’t allow him to drink anything with caffeine in it past 4 P.M. If getting up in the night to use the restroom is a problem, have him limit his liquids after dinner. By flossing and brushing his teeth, his mind and body will know that it is time for bed. He needs a daily bath. Have a pleasant family ritual, like reading together just before bedtime. You might practice some relaxation imagery with your child, if you know that he might have trouble with intrusive thoughts.
• Make sure that the room is restful. This means that the bed, pillows, and covers are comfortable and appropriate for the season. Adjust the room temperature. Open a window for a bit of fresh air.
• Fight the good fight when your child is young; get your child into a routine of taking a daily bath. Your child’s body will be sticky from the day’s work and play. Have him take a warm shower or bath every night. It is easier to instill this habit into a young child than to fight with a teen over a bath! If the child is having a major difficulty getting to sleep, soaking in a hot bath for about half of an hour can be helpful. It helps the blood vessels open up, and lets his body feel relaxed and ready for sleep. Towel off quickly, get into the jammies, and go right to bed.
• Provide comfortable bed clothes for your child.
• If your child has problems with noise in the house or outside the house, get a white noise machine. You just turn it on, and the soft whooshing noise drowns out a lot of environmental noises.
• Have a set bedtime for your child that allows him to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. That’s important, because small sleep deficits have a large impact on children with ADD/ADHD.
Building these routines is important, since less than one hour’s sleep loss a night can have a huge impact on your child. A study in the journal SLEEP reported that children with ADD/ADHD who had six days loss of sleep, of less than an hour per night, had impaired attention and vigilance to task. They experienced significant impairment to their neurobehavioral functioning.
Children without ADD/ADHD also had impaired function; however, it did not impair their function enough to make it clinically significant. With the children who have Attention Deficit Disorder, this slight lack of sleep put their neurobehavioral functioning into the subclinical level. This means that they did not function normally in the area of neurobehavioral functioning. What are the implications for this in their lives?
Two areas that might be critically affected would be academics and social interactions. A child, who is having problems staying vigilant, might not be able to follow the flow of a lesson presenting new material. The child might not pick up cues as to what part of the material presented is the most important and would be referenced on a test. A child who is having problems attending to task might not be able to work steadily on classwork or homework. The child might not be able to effectively read the teacher’s tone of voice or body language if he is unable to attend to task.
These problems picking up cues could also extend to social interactions, many of which depend on correctly reading small clues given verbally or non-verbally by others. Children know when they are having problems in class, and it tends to make them frustrated and cranky. These feelings are often shared with others, to the child’s detriment. When a cranky child goes out to play in the neighborhood, misreads the body language of his playmates, the time spent with peers seldom goes smoothly.
A study from the University of Helsinki was used to track students’ behavior after they had a reduced amount of sleep. This was sleep that averaged less than 7.7 hours. Researchers found that these students had higher scores in both the areas of impulsivity and hyperactivity. This research suggests that a lack of sleep may have a powerful effect on on a child's behavior when they have ADD.
Building established routines for helping your child to get adequate sleep is more than just a good way to finish the day’s activities. These routines are essential to your child’s functioning at school, home, and in the neighborhood. They help him to get enough sleep to deal with what comes his way during the day. And this helps to lay the foundation for success.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2011, March 4). Moderate sleep loss impairs vigilance and sustained attention in children with ADHD.ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 11, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com-/releases/2011/03/110301111247.htm
University of Helsinki (2009, April 28). Inadequate Sleep Leads To Behavioral Problems, Study Finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 11, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/04/090427131313.htm
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We read to our children at bedtime. It was a close, bonding time where they learned to appreciate a good story. It also helped to build their vocabularies. Both of them scored off the charts on vocabulary. Mark Twain will grow with your child. These short stories have tales for the young and old.
The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain