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Sleep Deprivation and Kids

Sleeping_boy_at_desk_with_books[1]Are your school kids getting enough sleep? With the new school year starting and routines being established, are things going smoothly? If you are sleep deprived, then the chances are your children may be sleep deprived as well. The following is an excerpt from the University of Michigan Health System:

School-aged children still need somewhere between 9 and 12 hours of sleep at night. At this age, kids usually start a trend toward becoming more and more sleep deprived. As the parents, you will need to help figure out how much sleep your child needs. Your child is getting the right amount of sleep if they:

  • Can fall asleep within 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Can wake up easily at the time they need to get up and don’t need you to keep bugging them to get up.
  • Are awake and alert all day, and don’t need a nap during the day.  Check with your child’s teacher and make sure your child is able to stay awake and alert during school.

In other words, if your child can go to bed, fall asleep easily, wake up easily, and not be tired during the day, then they’re probably getting enough sleep.

So, does your school-age child fit this bill? Obviously, the younger the child, generally, the more sleep they require. The amount of sleep required does vary from person to person, regardless of age. Are you aware that sleep deprivation is linked to poorer school outcomes as well as some behavioral and emotional problems? Adequate amounts of sleep for children (and adults, too) lead to healthier outcomes and better productivity.

Some simple steps to help your child to establish a better sleep routine is to set a bedtime and a ritual that cues the child that he/she is preparing for bed. Providing the appropriate environment to indicate to the child it is time to sleep is also important. Keeping the mood calm and relaxed can aid in allowing the child to unwind. Other hints include avoiding television one hour prior to bedtime, dim lights about two hours prior to bedtime, and limit or eliminate your child’s consumption of caffeinated beverages, such as soda and tea. The ideal bedroom setting is dark (a night light is ok), comfortably cool, quiet, and with few stuffed animals on the bed. If getting the bedtime ritual established is proving difficult, do not vary your waking times in the mornings, regardless if it is the weekend. Establishing and enforcing the waking time is easier to manage and will lend itself to eventually aiding in the establishment of a solid bedtime ritual. Teenagers and weekends will prove more challenging. But as parents, we are able to discuss sleep habits and the negative effects of sleep deprivation with them to allow them to participate more actively in improving their own sleep habits and become more responsible young adults along the way.

Remember, people in general need different amounts of sleep and the best way to determine if a child (or adult, for that matter) is sleep deprived is to ask the following questions the UMHS staff research has established:

  • Does your child fall asleep in the car almost every time you drive with them?
  • Do you have to wake your child up almost every morning?
  • Does your child seem overtired, cranky, irritable, aggressive, over-emotional, hyperactive, or have trouble thinking during the day?
  • On some nights, does your child “crash” much earlier than their usual bedtime?

A “yes” answer to any of the above can be an indication of sleep deprivation according to UMHS. It truly is a health benefit for your child to be well rested every day and this can be achieved with a good sleep routine.

Check out the University of Florida IFAS fact sheet to help address sleep needs for teens. Another great resource is the National Sleep Foundation.

Sweet dreams!

 

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