A week ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Martin Rawls-Meehan speak at IAHP's annual conference about the importance of sleep for children. Martin is the CEO at Reverie, a sleep technology company based in Detroit. They sell customized mattresses for a better night's sleep.
Martin discussed the science behind sleep -- our bodies have a natural circadian rhythm (where are energy levels increase and decrease throughout the day) and a homeostatic rhythm, creating the pressure for the need to sleep. If these two things are in sync with each other, it will become much easier to go to bed. If these are not ebbing and flowing together, it can become more difficult to fall asleep and you might experience more night time wake ups. For children, they start to get overtired and hyperactive.
Sleep is also incredibly important for brain growth and development. Depending on the stage of sleep, our brain is working on preserving new brain cells by strengthening the synapse bond between cells. Synapses are "branches" that come off each brain cell and connect to other brain cells. During sleep, the myelin sheath around the synapses gets stronger and stronger. And, this is why sleep is so important for our children -- their brains are growing and learning at an incredible rate! Their brains need sleep to restore and organize. This is why infants sleep so much.
Martin also discussed what chronic sleep deprivation in children can affect, including mood, weight, heart health, school performance, hormone regulation and more. I learned that HGH, a key growth hormone, is created during sleep. Kids need this hormone to continue to develop, and this is why athletes want to have as much sleep as possible.
How much sleep should your child be getting? According to Martin, here are the number of hours your little one should be sleeping in a 24 hour cycle:
0-1 year old: 14+ hours
1-2 years old: 11-14 hours
3-5 years old: 10-13 hours
6-17 years old: 9+ hours, depending on the age. Younger kids should be getting much more, where older teens can tolerate 9 hours.
Things like blue light emission and diet can also greatly affect sleep, and Martin discussed what kind of lights should be used in the house (incandescent light bulbs are best, or yellow LEDs) and different sleep inducing foods including banana, pineapple and more.