You might be wondering what exercising and hydration have to do with sleep. Well, actually it has a lot to do with it! As we’re getting ready to head into the hot summer months, I thought this was a great time to talk about these two things. I’m sure that you’re aware that as an adult, you should exercise to stay healthy and fit, right? So it’s no wonder that the same would be true for our kids. Besides the obvious fact that our children should exercise in order to stay healthy, it also helps them to sleep better. The more exercise they get throughout the day, the better they will sleep at night. They should fall asleep faster and also sleep more deeply.
The type of exercise they get really doesn’t matter, so long as their heart rate is up and their blood is pumping! For kids, the list of activity options is endless but I’ll give you some examples:
- riding bike
- playing sports
- playing at the park or playground
And the list goes on and on! The best part is that you don’t usually have to do much as a parent to convince your child to get up and get moving (I wish it was as easy for adults)! What can be tricky to handle as a parent is the timing of the activities and staying hydrated. Let’s talk a minute about the timing, because that can be hard to control at times.
While exercising is great for sleep, it’s only great if it’s done earlier in the day. Ideally, for the best possible sleep, you would have your child be done exercising 6 hours before they would be going to bed. So if your child had a 7pm bedtime, then they would be done working up a sweat by 1pm. Now I realize that is totally unrealistic, as I don’t know many young kids who are going to sit around for 6 hours (nor do we want them to)! The reason why has to do with the amount of time it takes for a person’s body temperature to return to normal. As soon as the body’s temperature returns to normal, it creates a natural feeling of sleepiness. So ideally, this is the best time to go to sleep.
Again, I know that’s not going to work for most kids under 13yrs old (teens have an easier time laying around). The main thing to avoid is having exercise too close to bed. The goal is to be done with the major sweat-inducing activities at least 3 hours before bedtime. By then most of the effects of the exercise (ie increased blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature) have gone away altogether or dropped a considerable amount. Having 4 kids in sports right now myself, I know what you’re thinking… “but their sports and activities go on so late in the night!” I hear ya! I get pretty annoyed myself at how late these practices and games are (even on school nights)! I may or may not have been “one of those parents” who has called the school to complain about the kids being required to attend a game at a late hour on a school night. Because let’s face it, it wasn’t just about my kid staying up too late. I had to stay up and go get her at a ridiculously late hour too (she’s in high school)!
We all know how hard it is to come home from being out somewhere and go immediately to bed (even if we weren’t doing anything physical). It’s no different for our kids! It’s really hard for them to run around a soccer field for 1-2 hours, then go home and immediately go to bed. They’re physically, mentally, and emotionally full of energy, thoughts, and feelings! The only upside is that they are sometimes so exhausted that they are ready to crash, but it really depends on the age and activity of the child. So you do what you can on these nights by keeping their bedtime routine, and trying to keep these late nights to a minimum.
Now on to hydration. When our kids are out there running around and working up a sweat, they are also losing a lot of water. How do you know how much fluids they should be getting each day? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children drink six glasses of water on an average day. Because children who are playing a sport or enduring a rigorous activity can lose up to a half-liter of fluid per hour, the AAP suggests about 5 ounces of water or a sports drink every 20 minutes for an 88-pound child (an ounce would be about two kid-size gulps). And kids and teens weighing about 132 pounds should drink 9 ounces.
Water makes up about 65% of our bodies, and it does some pretty fabulous things (ie carrying toxins out of the body, boosts your immune system, aids in digestion, improves skin conditions, increases energy, etc). Drinking water isn’t really an option. Humans NEED it to live! Dehydration is a serious issue and can kill you. It can also be a cause of a poor night of sleep. Now, if your child doesn’t like drinking straight water, don’t worry because it isn’t the only way to get it. Water is also found in flavored drinks, fruits, and veggies, so keep that in mind while trying to keep your kiddos hydrated this summer!
*Remember, as always, you can schedule a free 15min phone call with me to discuss your child’s (or your) sleep issues. You can also check out my FREE page, filled with lots of free resources and tips!