I wrote this article a month ago and I have only got around posting it now. In our family we have all taken a major step back in the last few weeks and we are working on getting lots of sleep… hence the tardiness of this post 🙂
I hope it gets many of you thinking!
Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep?
Whoever coined the term “rise and shine” has never been at my house at 7 am on a school day. Between my eldest two sons who have usually stayed up past their bedtime to do a crazy amount of homework, and my youngest daughter who is physically drained from all of her extracurricular activities, the three of them have the hardest time getting up to start off their day. And with the recent arrival of daylight savings time our morning routine has gotten even more difficult. As my poor sleepyheads drag their feet in the morning, mumbling about how they wish they could stay in bed, the more I wonder if my children are really getting enough sleep.
You Snooze, You Lose
I realize, of course, that as their parent, I really am to blame. In trying to help my children get ahead, I have allowed ridiculous expectations amount for their daily activities and academic performance. Yet somehow I have forsaken one of the basic principles of parenting – respecting their bedtimes. Looking around at the other parents I know, how many of us are truly strict about this? We tend to be quite permissive, allowing our children to stay up all in the name of getting ahead. Where exactly are our children headed if they are so bloody tired throughout the day! Many of them spend a significant amount of time complaining that they are tired, while we parents rush them through their daily routine. This is our rat race, not theirs. So, why are we inflicting so much pressure on them? We as parents need to take a step back and put things into perspective.
And the Clock Keeps Ticking
In today’s fast-paced world, we are bombarded by endless activities geared toward helping our children develop. We are never at a loss for “new” information – through our TVs, SmartPhones, computers, and IPads. Is it any wonder that families never seem to wind down? Each day, children see the frenetic pace we ourselves keep. It’s only natural that they want to imitate mommy or daddy. And we are all just too happy to oblige, helping them exploit these technologies and making them young consumers. We rationalize that our kids have to learn how to type anyhow, we marvel at the fact that they sometimes know how to use today’s technology better than us. How many kids are no longer read to, but are rather allowed to play “just a little longer” on their PS2 or Wii before heading to bed?
Sleeping is overrated
Regardless of the actual culprit, the end result is that children across the U.S. are getting approximately 37 minutes less of sleep than is recommended. That may not seem like much, but over the course of a school week, that amounts to almost 2.5 hours. In a month, kids are already more than 12 hours behind on their sleep!
We all know how important sleep is for replenishing our own energy supply. For children, sleep is even more critical because it actually stimulates their development through growth hormone, which happens to be released more intensely during the sleep cycle than throughout the day. According to WebMd, children need a “sufficient amount of sleep to grow, develop, and function optimally”. There’s actually a lot at stake on the simple act of sleeping!
Studies have actually shown that children who do not get an adequate amount of sleep have an increased chance of developing physical and mental health problems. In fact, recent studies show that preschoolers who lack sleep are two times more prone to injuries.
Sleepy, Grumpy, Dopey, and the rest…
So now you’re wondering, how much is enough? The National Sleep Foundation recommends that preschoolers should sleep between 11 and 13 hours, elementary school children should get between 10 to 11 hours of sleep, while older children and teenagers should get a minimum of 8.5 hours – this is a far cry from any amount of sleep any kids I know are getting! In addition, it’s not just the quantity that counts, but also the quality. Some children can sink into their deep sleep cycle faster and end up getting a better overall quality of sleep than others.
It certainly is important to expose your kids to a variety of extracurricular activities as well as to the wonderful world of technology. However, let’s not blind ourselves to the importance of enforcing an early bedtime. We need to ensure that our children get a healthy amount of rest as well as the adequate type of rest that’s suited for them. If your child protests about an earlier bedtime, just tell him the plain truth – sleeping is just as important as eating for becoming big and strong. Young kids adore hearing that just about anything will help them grow. Older kids may be more of a challenge, but they will enjoy having any old excuse for not finishing up their homework! Not to mention that we parents will absolutely enjoy having some additional times to ourselves!
In preparation for upcoming state-wide assessments, one of my children’s teachers brilliantly banned homework for the week and strongly recommended to parents that her students get a full night’s rest before the exams. What a powerful testament to the art of sleeping – you really just can’t get enough!