Young girl sleeping in bed with a teddy bear

What a Child Does Before Bedtime Affects Sleep

Source: The Straits Times, 6 February 2015 © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

Dr Michael Lim puts his two children to bed at 7.30pm.

The child sleep expert does so to ensure his two-year-old daughter and four-year-old son get at least nine to 10 hours of sleep every day.

Your Health. In Your Hands.

Dr Lim is among a minority of Singaporean parents who make sure their children get enough sleep.

A study by four undergraduates at Nanyang Technological University showed that 57.6 percent of children in lower primary do not get enough sleep.

The study surveyed more than 300 parents on the sleep habits of their children.

Dr Lim, 37, told The New Paper: “When my children have sufficient sleep, they have noticeably better mood in the daytime and wake up easily in the morning.”

Children who don’t get sufficient sleep will display tell-tale signs both behaviourally and physically, such as having difficulty waking up, or falling asleep when travelling to school, he said.

Dr Lim, a consultant in National University Hospital’s Division of Paediatric Pulmonary and Sleep, added: “Parents should also be watchful if their children are overactive or grumpy as that’s their way of acting out.”

Apart from the amount of sleep a child gets, what he or she does before sleeping is just as important.

Related: The Importance of Sleep

Screen Time

Dr Lim said: “They should not be exposed to so much screen time just before they sleep. It may arouse them and affect their sleep hormones.”

In many cases, parents are the reason behind their children’s sleep deprivation, added Dr Lim.

“Kids emulate their parents’ sleeping habits. If they see their parents watching TV or using their phones, they will pick up such habits, too.”

“If bad pre-bedtime activities are perceived as normal by parents, then they will not see it as a problem for their kids.”

Parents TNP spoke to said they were unaware that their actions had implications for their children’s sleeping habits.

Madam Gennie Low, 36, who often watches TV with her five children before their bedtime, said: “We watch movies together and my husband plays games with them on the tablet.”

“I didn’t know that it affects my children’s sleep.”

Her children, who are aged between nine months and 12 years, have eight hours of sleep every day.

She said: “Maybe I’ll try to cut down on the time spent watching TV and playing games before bedtime.”

On the other hand, father of four Paulo Canlas, 35, makes sure his children sleep the recommended nine hours and do not have access to any gadgets before they sleep.

He said: “If they protest, I tell them that they don’t get to play the Xbox on the weekends. It always works.”

Related: Screen Time

By The Numbers

Young girl exploring science using a light microscope

57.6 percent

The percentage of children aged six to nine who do not get the recommended amount of sleep for their age: nine to 10 hours of sleep.

89 percent

The percentage of parents who do not think their child has a sleep problem.

71 percent

The percentage of parents who watch TV an hour before bedtime. Watching TV is the most popular activity among parents one hour before they sleep.

74.6 percent

The percentage of children who watch TV an hour before bedtime. Experts say watching TV before sleeping could excite children at a time they should be relaxing.

Related: The Big Sleep

Not just TV but all screens. However, more recent evidence shows there is a difference between passive screen time (TV, Youtube) vs. active screentime (gaming etc).

Your Health. In Your Hands

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