It’s summertime, and those sleep schedules you worked oh-so-hard to maintain during the school year have all been tossed out the window by this point. Longer, sun-drenched days mean that kids often go to bed later and later, and as a result, it can make the following morning a mess. As much as you may want your children to embrace an up and at ‘em attitude even during vacation time, you might be surprised to learn that there are benefits to letting your kid sleep in.
“Children of all ages need to have a sleep schedule, and it needs to be consistent in order to form good sleep habits,” advises Dr. Robert Golenbock, a pediatrician at the Center for Pediatric Medicine in New Fairfield, CT. So it can be totally frustrating when your child wants to sleep in, especially since it often negatively impacts the rest of the day’s plans, or that precious mid-day nap. Warns Dr. Golenbock: “Sleeping in means you might have an inconsistent schedule that you’re going to pay for eventually.” Although it might not be overall beneficial to you or your family if your kid wants to stay in bed longer (particularly if you need to get him to the babysitter so you can head to work, or if he’s going to summer camp), letting your child have additional time to sleep isn't all bad. These healthy reasons just might make you feel better the next time your kiddo hits the snooze button on your plans.
1. They’re getting in tune with their biorhythms
The reason why your teen wants to sleep in isn’t because he’s a laze about. “Adolescence comes with a lot of brain development, and during this time, biorhythms can change,” says Dr. Golenbock. That explains why teens tend to stay up very late, but they still require the same amount of overall sleep. “Of all ages, teens would be the ones who would most benefit from sleeping in and getting that extra time that their bodies require.” So if he wants to sleep late, attribute it to those testy teen years.
2. Kids grow while they sleep
When my oldest son was a baby, a bunch of girlfriends came over to visit. Naturally, he was sleeping, and I was just about to wake him up so that my gal pals could coo all over him when one of them exclaimed, “No, don’t wake the baby! He needs his sleep in order to grow.” At the time, I thought it was such an odd comment, but as it turns out, my friend was right: Your child does grow in length during sleep hours. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a growth hormone is secreted during deep sleep, so that feeling that you have that your child grew overnight is actually quite correct. Shorten the snoozing time, and you might wind up shortchanging your kid on the necessary slumber for him to grow big and tall.
3. Kids who don’t get enough sleep can gain weight
One of the biggest factors in weight gain or loss can be attributed to sleep. In fact, if your child doesn’t get enough sleep, he runs the risk of becoming heavier. Why? A USA Today article reported that not getting enough sleep can increase appetite, which leads to being overweight. Specifically, spikes of ghrelin, aptly known as “the hunger hormone,” and a decreased amount of leptin (which is responsible for feeling full) are released into the body when you don’t get enough zzz’s. Getting 8-10 hours of sleep at night can help keep your child’s weight in check.
4. He’ll be healthier
If you’ve ever felt really tired and then gotten sick afterwards, there’s a reason why. Lack of sleep is directly linked to getting sick, the Mayo Clinic reported. As your child slumbers, his immune system releases cytokines, proteins that are linked to sleep. But if your child is fighting off a cold or another ailment, not getting enough time to sleep in can decrease the amount of cytokines in the body, rendering him more susceptible to illness.
5. He’ll be smarter
While we can’t guarantee that getting a good night’s rest will turn your child into an overnight rock star student, it can help him finesse his focus. Being sleepy can affect cognitive abilities ranging from perception to concentration to his overall analytical capabilities, WebMD explained.
6. His fine motor skills will improve
Is your kid kind of clumsy? Chalk it up to inefficient sleep. Over time, continuous sleep deprivation can negatively impact the body and brain, and one of those factors is your child’s coordination, according to Dr. Golenbock. So if you find him bumping into walls, encourage your child to either get to bed earlier or allow him to sleep a little longer come morning.
7. He’ll heal faster
The human body is in a constant state of repair, but all those individual home improvements can be sidelined by a lack of sleep. For example, your little guy’s skinned knee might heal a whole lot faster if he gets to score some extra a.m. snooze. “Hormones are released during sleep that stimulate tissue growth and also soothe muscular injuries, which helps the body heal more quickly,” reports Dr. Golenbock. Plus, faster repair of tired muscles and wounds means that there’s less of a chance for infection to occur.
8. He’ll have more energy
If you thought that additional sleep might make your kid sluggish, think again. Sleeping in can help your child experience more energy than if he had gotten up earlier. When your child sleeps, his body refuels without having to expend extra calories, The Chicago Tribune reported. This allows him to wake up feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed — or at least, somewhat awake.
9. You’ll both be happier
Many a parent knows what it’s like to wake up a kid who just does not want to get out of bed. Cue the crankiness — from both of you. “By letting your child sleep in, you’re allowing your child to rest at his or her own pace,” says Dr. Golenbock. “When it doesn’t make a difference to your day, don’t force a schedule that their brain isn’t prepared for.” Meaning, if there isn’t a real reason for your child to have to get out of bed in the morning, let them sleep in, and try to grab some extra sleep for yourself, too. You’ll both be grateful for it.
Of course, it’s important to have a consistent bedtime so that there’s not really a reason for your child to need to sleep in. But on weekends or during the summer, when routines are less rigid, it can be advantageous for your child to get some extra rest. Sweet dreams!