Every night skirmishes break out nationwide as parents, armed with the latest information and techniques from sleep experts, head into the bedtime battle against their children who are armed with buzzing minds and unspent energy. While a good night’s sleep is critical, these nightly battles are largely unnecessary.
The importance of quality sleep for developing minds is clear. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a Statement of Endorsement supporting the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) guidelines outlining recommended sleep duration for children from infants to teens. These guidelines recommend that 5-12-year-olds get 9-13 hours of sleep each night. Poor sleep is associated with poor health outcomes including depression, poor academic performance, and obesity. Start Sleeping has a useful table for determining what sleep needs children have through various stages and some pitfalls to avoid when creating a healthy sleep schedule.
The number of sleep books that populate the bestseller lists speak to parents’ concern over their children’s sleep and the difficulty that many households experience in creating a healthy sleep schedule. Picture books about sleep fill the shelves and parents use classics like Goodnight Moon and Bear Snores On to try and lull their children to sleep. Parents are constantly on the lookout for help in the nightly battle.
In addition to recommended sleep requirements, the AAP recommends 5-17-year-olds should get at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day. The exercise requirement may seem onerous to parents, but this component to their children’s day might be that one change that makes sleep and other healthy habits fall into place.
A recent study found that children in neighborhoods with positive environmental characteristics, such as playgrounds, had fewer serious sleep disturbances, than their peers in neighborhoods with fewer health-promoting amenities1 It appears that children who have easier access to outdoor play are getting better sleep. This makes a lot of sense and there is increasing science to back it up.
Children who spend time playing outside have significantly increased time in the bed the following night, researchers found. This is good news for parents who are looking for easy ways to make sure that their children get a solid night’s sleep. It also appears that unstructured play is especially good for children who are often overscheduled. US News and World Report looked at children’s sleep and found that a less hectic schedule with purposeful family time led to fewer night battles and better sleep.
Parents can kill two birds with one stone by heading down to the local playground.2 By stepping away from the overscheduled and hectic day parents can create much-needed family time. Importantly this unstructured play time will ensure that children are getting the AAP recommended amount of exercise, will get a better night’s sleep and have a smoother transition in the evening. It’s a free solution the whole family will love.3
- 1Singh GK, Kenney MK. Rising Prevalence and Neighborhood, Social, and Behavioral Determinants of Sleep Problems in US Children and Adolescents, 2003-2012. Sleep Disorders. January 2013:1-15. doi:10.1155/2013/394320.
- 2Lin Y, Borghese MM, Janssen I. Bi-directional association between sleep and outdoor active play among 10-13-year-olds. BMC Public Health. 2018;(1). doi:10.1186/s12889-018-5122-5.
- 3Up Too Late. By: Levine, Samantha, Marcus, Mary Brophy, U.S. News & World Report, 00415537, 9/9/2002, Vol. 133, Issue 9