It is no secret that proper sleep positively influences health. In addition, proper sleep can also take the credit for sustained periods of focus and concentration. When it comes to our children, it is our job as parents to give them the tools they need to succeed. Every day science continues to prove that in order for our children to be happy, well-tempered and focused; they must also be well rested.
The “Wired” Child
Whether they are school aged, or at the stage where their wake times are spent playing, healthy sleep is essential. “A wired child is a tired child.” A child who is not sleeping at the proper times according to their inner body clock and not getting enough quantity of sleep in a 24 hour period, is going to exhibit obvious signs of sleep deprivation. These tired signals, however, come in many different forms.
Some parents might think that their energetic child who is running around the house, going from one activity to another is not tired at all, when in fact the reason they have so much energy is the result of cortisol production pumping through their body. If you have ever heard the term “second wind,” it is referring to the cortisol that enters the body when a child is awake during their biological sleep waves. The cortisol production produces copious amounts of energy and reduces your child’s ability to focus on one task at a time.
A child that is able to entertain themselves with a toy or an activity is getting proper amounts of sleep. Children who roam from one form of stimulation to another are doing so because they lack the ability to concentrate on one at a time, simply because they are exhausted. This is also the child that is constantly hanging on Mom and Dad and unwilling to go off and explore on their own, which is a natural and important part of their development.
The Happy Child
Maria Montessori writes, “The first essential for the child’s development is concentration. The child who concentrates is immensely happy.” It is not only about our child’s ability to complete a task or entertain themselves, it is about the one thing that will unite all parents; a child’s happiness. An exhausted infant/toddler cannot express to you that they are tired and would benefit from more sleep. They are not going to recognize that their frustration and lack of ability to consistently focus and concentration is due to lack of sleep. It is our job as parents to make sure that they are getting the rest they need and deserve.
ADHD, kids and sleep
Although sleep is a huge part of our well-being, we do not yet know everything there is to learn about it. Studies and research of all kinds are being conducted every day in order to learn more. ADD and ADHD are both a very controversial diagnosis in the sleep world. The behavior exhibited by a child diagnosed with either is similar to a child who lacks quality sleep. Do children who are diagnosed with ADD and ADHD need more sleep? Did they not experience proper sleep as an infant/toddler? Perhaps the answers are around the corner, until then it is important to focus on what we do know; focus and concentration are heavily influenced by proper sleep.
Ferber, Richard. Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. London: Vermilion, 2013. Print.
Weissbluth, Marc. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child: A Step-by-step Program for a Good Night’s Sleep. New York: Ballantine, 2005. Print.
Diana Flutie is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant from Helena, Montana. Originally from the UK, Diana graduated from the School of Justice Studies and Social Inquiry at Arizona State University with a specialization in developmental psychology and English.