So many things can affect your child’s sleep. Too much activity right before bed, eating sugar close to bedtime or maybe they are afraid of something. Researchers at UNM (University of Mexico) have found that parents who don’t get along affect their child's sleep and this in turn can lead to other things being affected. Their study involved children aged 8 years older to 16 years old. They looked at how stress in the family affected their sleep. Professor Ryan Kelly looked at these stresses that can affect any marriage.
- Drinking issues
- Mental health problems such as depression
- Relationship between parents
- Relationship between parents and children
Kelly found that even though a child may be in bed for 9 hours, they may only be sleeping for 6 of those hours. As an extension of that he noted "In turn these children are tired during the day. They don't do well at school. They show symptoms of anxiety and depression because of sleep problems. Beyond that, family stress creates long-term problems,"
Kelly’s research also looked at the long term effects of stress on children. He stated that this type of stress stays with a child. For example a 9 year old exposed to stress in the family, still will have difficulty sleeping at age 15.
Symptoms that may show up in children:
- trouble with standardize tests
- issues with academic functions resulting in lower grades.
- children will show symptoms of depression and anxiety
- an increased body mass index (BMI).
Kelly suggests a few things parents can do to minimize stress on children:
1)Know that when you argue in a harsh way in front of your children.
2)Also he suggests avoiding heavy use of alcohol as it makes the child feel unsafe.
3)Most importantly he suggests a consistent sleep schedule. Children need to go to bed every night at the same time, or with a 30-minute timeframe of that time period. The same applies for morning wake time as well.
4) He also suggests avoiding technology (iphones, ipads, computers, tv 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Bright screens prevent the release of melatonin, the hormone that supports sleep and wake cycles.
I think as parents we all try to do the best that we can. I am sure all parents want the best for their children and would never purposely create such a stressful environment for their child. But we are human and all things happen. It’s life. Still, with knowledge comes power. All families should looks for ways to decrease stress and create a harmonius envoirment for all. Then everyone sleeps better creating a brighter tomorrow for all. This is one of those times when I like to say…when we know better, we should do better. - Nav