Contributed by Cheryl Erwin
Falling asleep (and getting enough sleep) would seem to be a normal, simple part of everyday family life—especially for children. But it turns out that it’s not so simple after all. Recent studies tell us that children today are getting an average of one hour less sleep each night than they did 30 years ago. That may not sound like much, but it turns out that that lost hour is having quite an impact.
Sixty percent of high school students report extreme daytime sleepiness. A quarter admit their grades have dropped because of it. As many as 33% are dozing off in class at least once a week. Lack of sleep is also linked to ADHD and to mood swings. Children in elementary school need nine to 10 hours of sleep each night; teens need almost as much, and almost no one is getting it. So what’s up with kids and sleep?
Well, many families simply lack a regular evening routine. Kids and parents alike are swamped with sports and activities. Kids often have piles of homework and report feeling stressed about it. And many kids, especially older ones, are staying connected to friends and the Internet well into the night. Among some young people, lack of sleep is a badge of honor, a sign of hard work at school and important connections with friends.
What should parents do?
• Educate your children about the importance of sleep. Sleep is not optional: it’s critically important to physical and emotional health, and to academic success. Know how much sleep your kids need, and work with them to be sure they get it.
• Create a bedtime routine with your kids. This will look different at different ages, but having a consistent bedtime routine helps ease children from the day’s busyness towards sleep. Create a routine with your children, make a chart to remind everyone of the steps, and do your best to follow it consistently.
• Make an agreement with your kids about the use of technology at night. You might create a “technology garage”, where phones, video game consoles, and other techno-toys are stored from evening until morning. You can validate your children’s connection to their friends while still helping them understand the importance of sleep.
• Set a good example. Do your best to care for yourself. Go to bed at a consistent time each night and create a restful environment for yourself. Parents need sleep, too!
Sleep deprivation has been used as torture for centuries, for good reason. Make sure you and your family are getting off to a good start each morning with a solid night’s sleep each night.
Cheryl Erwin writes and works in Reno. You find links to wonderful her blog and radio talks at her website.
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Photo Credit: gil_dumbea