Listen: Dr Justin Coulson chats to Emma Mullings about how much sleep we need.
Sleep is not a luxury item, and adults need adequate slumber just as much as grizzly toddlers and grumpy teenagers, says parenting expert Dr Justin Coulson.
In a chat with Hope 103.2 about the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s new sleep recommendations, Dr Coulson said our moods, relationships, productivity and self-control, are all hampered when we don’t get enough shut-eye.
The new recommendations say that kids and teens should get the following amounts of sleep every 24 hours:
- Babies aged 4 to 12 months: 12 to 16 hours (including naps)
- Children aged 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours (including naps)
- Children aged 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours (including naps)
- Children aged 6 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours
- Teens aged 13 to 18 years: 8 to 10 hours
As for adults, we should get 7 or more hours sleep per night on a regular basis for optimal health according to the AASM and the Sleep Research Society.
Lack Of Sleep Affects Your Parenting And Your Kids
Dr Coulson said one recent commercial survey showed 94 percent of Australians weren’t sleeping enough, and that our average sleep time is 6.5 hours.
“We sometimes treat sleep as if it’s one of those things you only have when you can afford it, there’s too many other things to do,” Dr Coulson said.
“But think about how you perform as a grownup when you’re sleep-deprived. Our resistance to any kind of temptation is lower, as well as our resistance to our childrens’ challenging behaviour. We tend to be less kind to people, more irritable. Our productivity is lower. If that’s what it does to us as adults, imagine what it’s doing to kids.”
Impacts of inadequate sleep include:
- Irritability and moodiness
- Feelings of depression and anxiety
- Lack of concentration
- Less self-control
- Decreased productivity
- Impaired performance at work or school
- Decline in creativity
- Reduced problem-solving ability
- Riskier driving
- Unwillingness to exercise
- Proneness to overeating & obesity
- Reduced immunity
Our Brains And Bodies Grow When We Sleep
For children and teens, whose brains are still forming until their 20s, sleep is vital for healthy development.
“We need sleep so our brains can grow properly,” said Dr Coulson. “Especially our children, and in particular our adolescents.”
The more sleep infants get, the more they grow, according to a study in 2011. And while some teenagers may like to think they can play computer games all night and be fine the next day, they’re wrong, says Dr Coulson.
“Teenagers need 8 to 10 hours and while they’ll tell you that they can get by on less, the reality is they can’t,” he said.
Justin’s Top Tips for Getting Enough Sleep
To help everyone in the family get a good night’s sleep, Dr Coulson recommended the following steps:
Tip 1 – Stick to a Routine
Both children and adults benefit from a calm, nightly bedtime routine.
“There’s strong signs to show the importance of going to bed around about the same time each night, and having a really nice, predictable sequence to follow,” Dr Coulson explained. It keeps everyone calm. In our house after dinner we have ‘toilet, teeth, hair and prayer’. We have 6 girls so there’s a lot of hair to brush! You might have a song and a story. Whatever it is, you just want to have the nice consistent, calm routine.”
Tip 2 – Get Comfortable
Make sure the bedroom is comfortable, the bedding is clean and inviting and cosy, the temperature is right, and the room is quiet and dark.
“Too hot, cold, noisy or bright and it’s not going to work. And buy the best quality mattress you can afford,” Dr Coulson says.
Tip 4 – Switch It Off
Screen-free time before bed is vital for good sleep, says Dr Coulson.
“Shut down devices,” he said. “You’ve got to keep screens out of rooms, at least 30 minutes before bed time, preferably an hour. Those bright screens delay melatonin release and as a result they delay sleep onset. And your body is going to respond with more vitality if you go to sleep at the right time and get up at the right time.”
Dr Justin Coulson is a parenting author, speaker and researcher. More of his sleep advice for families is available at his blog, Happyfamilies.com.au.