Eradicating the ever-present problem of bullies may lie in establishing proper sleeping habits for children. The New York Times reported that a new study of over 300 elementary students in Michigan revealed a correlation between sleep-disturbances and behavioral instability. Louise O’brien, the study’s lead author, cautions that the findings don’t prove lack of sleep causes bullying but it certainly implies a relationship between the two.
Other studies have yielded similar findings. We’ve known for a long time now that proper sleep habits affect both mental and physical health. Fatigue, mood swings, weight gain, weakened concentration, memory loss, and impaired immunity can all be caused by insufficient sleep. What to do if your child isn’t sleeping well:
- Ensure proper activity levels during the day. Children should engage in at least thirty minutes of exercise or active play each day but the more, the better!
- Encourage a balanced diet with very little caffeine or excess sugar.
- Establish a wind-down routine. A warm bath or shower, quiet time and dimmed lighting can all help set the mood for bedtime.
- Teens should turn off cell-phones to reduce the temptation to text all night long.
- Keep the air cool and layer up an extra blanket. Many people find higher quality sleep with the AC on or the window cracked. Personally, I like a fan pointed towards my feet!
- If all else fails, consult your family doctor. An underlying medical condition could be causing sleep disturbances or insomnia.
Ultimately, bullying and behavior problems are caused by emotional instabilities: chemical reactions in the brain that cause aggressive or disruptive behavior. Besides sleep, is mental health also affected by diet and exercise? All signs point to yes. Proper diet, exercise, sleep and stress reduction all seem to play important roles in the mental health of both children and adults. While many efforts have recently been put in to solve the problems associated with bullying, it now appears that time may be better spent addressing the issue where it appears to start, with complete health and wellness at home.
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June 10th, 2011