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Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep?

Geoff Nixon

By Geoff Nixon

A Healthy Sleep Routine Matters

Over the past few months I have prepared food, wrapped it, and mistakenly deposited it right in the trash can instead of the refrigerator. I have set aside cash in an envelope only to scour the house a few minutes later looking for it and find I’d placed it in the recycle bin. And I’ve rushed to the store for a key ingredient in a recipe, only to forget to include the item a short time later while cooking.

This list could go on for some time, I’m afraid, as could the number of similar examples I’ve heard from others recently. As a new mom, my quirky behavior is the direct result of sleep deprivation. While my sleep is disrupted far less than most, at this stage, it still has an incredible effect on every day activities. Similarly, lack of sleep can have a profound impact on learning and achievement.

Sleep Deprivation Has Consequences

Studies have shown a link between getting a good night’s sleep and achievement in math and language. This is because of the relationship between sleep and cognitive processes, such as those used to focus, multi-task, and plan. Sleep is important for memory and consolidating information. Deficiency can lead to mood, behavior, and health concerns.

According to a 2013 bbc.com article, an “international comparison, carried out by Boston College, found the United States to have the highest number of sleep-deprived students, with 73% of 9 and 10 year-olds and 80% of 13 and 14-year-olds identified by their teachers as being adversely affected”. Just as sleep influences our daily behavior, our everyday actions can impact sleep. Medications, technology use, food, anxiety, and social concerns all play a role. As you start to prepare for the coming school year, consider your child’s sleep routine and the impact it can have on learning and achievement.

Sleep Routine Recommendations

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends 10-11 hours of sleep per night for school age children, 12 and under, and 9 hours for adolescents. The following suggestions can be helpful in meeting these goals.

  • Establish a routine and stick to it as often as possible, even on weekends. Frequent schedule changes can be difficult to adapt to.
  • Encourage regular exercise and a healthy diet.
  • Limit caffeine, particularly towards the day’s end.
  • Choose light, healthy snacks over heavy meals when eating close to bedtime.
  • Allow time for winding down before bed with calming activities such as reading or an evening bath.
  • Avoid electronics before bed. The light from a cell phone, television, e-reader, or computer can signal the brain that it needs to stay awake.
  • Limit activities like homework, eating, or viewing TV to other designated areas. The bed is for sleeping.
  • Set an example by following similar guidelines (for example, caffeine and electronics)­
  • Talk to your child about the importance of sleep and routines.

Back to School Preparation

Now is the perfect time to develop a sleep plan and begin putting it into action. Set goals and establish a plan, as a family, that everyone can be comfortable with. It’s a wonderful way to help ensure the coming school year gets off to a great start.

Copyright: justmeyo / 123RF Stock Photo

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