The classic lullaby "Rock-a-Bye Baby" is oddly unrestful. The last line is "when the bough breaks, the cradle will fall and down will come baby, cradle and all!"
Although that's a scary image, it does get one thing right: If children don't regularly get a good night's sleep, they are going to face some pretty serious repercussions.
Children ages 6 to 12 need nine to 12 hours of sleep nightly. If they don't get it, their healthy brain development is adversely affected in areas related to memory, intelligence, and mental health.
That's the conclusion of a study in Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. Researchers looked at data on around 8,300 kids and found that over a two-year stretch, children who had less than nine hours of sleep a night at the beginning of the study had less gray matter in those vital brain areas, compared to kids with healthy sleep habits.
Parents can help their children thrive by setting a regular bedtime. It's also essential to encourage physical activity during the day. Kids ages 6 to 17 should get 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily. That includes aerobics as well as muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening (jumping or running) activity at least three days a week.
And help kids and teens avoid caffeine in sodas, iced teas, and energy drinks.
You should also limit screen time and have no screens for an hour before bed (read a book to younger kids). Then make sure the bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool.