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Help Children Get Their "Beauty" Sleep
By Allison Powe
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Parents often find battles over bedtimes as difficult as those at the dinner table. But those fights are worth the effort as the health benefits of "beauty" sleep may be as beneficial as that proverbial apple a day.
Parents with school age children may find it hard to get the kids to bed at a decent hour without hearing cries of protest or rebellious fits of rage. Linda Patterson, extension health education specialist at Mississippi State University, said a period of transition is one key to forming good sleeping habits.
"Developing a routine wind-down period for children before bedtime is a good idea. Reading a story or having a chat is calming," Patterson said. "When children play games or watch exciting television programs before going to bed they may have difficulty falling asleep."
Patterson said having late meals, sodas or other stimulants during the evening hours also can prevent children from going to sleep easily or sleeping well.
"Children need to sleep and to be encouraged to do so on a regular basis. When children do not get enough sleep, they become sleepy during the day, less resistant to illness and irritable," Patterson said.
Parents can help their children form good sleeping habits by enforcing a bedtime that provides adequate rest. However, bedtime should not become a substitute for dealing with other issues.
"Parents should not send their children to bed for punishment. Maintain the bed only as a place to rest," Patterson said.
"Parents can make a decision about bedtime based on the amount of sleep a child seems to need. All children do not need the same schedule, but parents should set limits by using good common sense," she said.
"Also give children adequate time in the mornings to wake up before they are rushed into a busy routine," Patterson said.
Patterson advised parents to realize that healthy children need about three to four hours of physical activity and mental stimulation during the day to be tired at night.
A physician should evaluate any child who has trouble sleeping for two weeks or more for no obvious reason.