Sleep: The secret weapon for school success
By GreatSchools Staff
Lack of sleep is a national epidemic for today's children, and the consequences are serious.
Is your child having behavior problems and trouble in school? Making sure she/he gets enough sleep may be the solution.serious.
Sleep deprivation can affect cognitive skills and academic achievement. A continuing lack of sleep is linked to serious health problems including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, depression and a shortened life span.
Why aren't kids getting enough sleep?
Children ages 5 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Yet studies show that most kids are getting about an hour less sleep each night than they did 30 years ago.
Why? Extracurricular activities, such as sports teams and arts programs, may schedule events at night. Working parents who get home late may feel guilty and want to spend time with their children in the evening. Too much homework and the many distractions of television, video games and computers all play a role. In addition, all the pressures and stresses of today's frenetic lifestyles may make it difficult for kids to calm down so they can fall asleep.
Catching up on sleep is not a good option
Parents may think they'll let their children catch up on sleep on the weekend. But sleep experts at the Mayo Clinic advise against this practice as irregular sleep schedules can affect the biological clock, hurt the quality of sleep and cause greater irritability. Children who sleep in on the weekend may have an even harder time getting up for school on Monday morning, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. It's better, the experts say, to keep similar schedules during the week and on the weekends.
Make sleep a priority
Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, teacher, parent educator and author of Sleepless in America, says parents can play a key role by placing a high value on their children's sleep. She says the first step for parents is to "make sleep a priority."
"Scientific research links heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity with lack of sleep. There's also a study out of the University of Michigan," adds Kurcinka, "that shows that 20 to 25 % of kids with ADHD have sleep disorders. Sleep is not a luxury. This is about health and well being."
Some parents may think that their child isn't sleeping much because he just doesn't need as much sleep as other children. But Kurcinka doesn't buy that argument. She says, "When I hear a parent say, 'He is a kid who doesn't need sleep,' generally this means he is a kid who can't sleep. He needs help learning to calm himself to get to sleep. If I see a child who has behavior problems, can't focus or pay attention, a child who's getting sick a lot, craving carbohydrates, I'll want to look at how much sleep he's getting. Maybe the child is just exhausted."