news item: Kids with more sleep cope better

Sleep. It’s important.

As I begin to write this, my 10.5 month old is crying in her crib. It’s time for her morning nap, and she is so tired, yet she is fighting it for some reason today. I wish I could rationally explain to her that she would feel so much better if she got a couple hours of shut eye, but alas, she doesn’t quite get that yet, so if she cries past my self-imposed 5 minute mark, I’ll run back upstairs to rock and cuddle and sing, and we’ll try this all over again. Happily, this time, she is cuddled up with her blankie and out like a light after four minutes. Thank God.

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Sleep. It’s such a touchy subject, and it’s one that most parents worry and fret over continually in the first few years of their child’s life. Is she sleeping enough? Is he waking up too often? Do I let her cry? Do I co-sleep with him? Do I…? Should we…? But what about…? — The worries are endless!

However, what happens to worrying about the school age kiddos? Who worries about their hours of sleep? Are we making enough effort to make sure their brains are sufficiently charged for the day? 

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Over the past couple of weeks I have been reading the current PAIL Bookclub selection, Nurture Shock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. There is a really interesting chapter on sleep called, “The Lost Hour,” which got me thinking about this sleep issue. A few days later I saw a snippet on the news about the same concept, and then an article on CNN popped up in my news feed. Consider me hooked.

The synopsis of the study referenced in Pediatrics is this:

RESULTS: Our main findings were that (1) a cumulative extension of sleep duration of 27.36 minutes was associated with detectable improvement in Conners’ Global Index–derived emotional lability and restless-impulsive behavior scores of children in school and a significant reduction in reported daytime sleepiness; and (2) a cumulative restriction of sleep of 54.04 minutes was associated with detectable deterioration on such measures.

CONCLUSIONS: A modest extension in sleep duration was associated with significant improvement in alertness and emotional regulation, whereas a modest sleep restriction had opposite effects.

Basically, an extra half hour of sleep was enough to give kids more energy which made made them more alert in class and increased their ability to handle their emotions. Getting less sleep had the opposite effect.

This may seem like an obvious statement, but how many of us actual model good sleep behaviors for our children? The CNN Article gave tips for getting your child off to bed at a reasonable hour, and it was shocking to me to realize that my husband and I do NONE of these things for ourselves currently:

— About a half hour before bedtime, have your kids start winding down – put down the electronic devices, turn off the TV and shut down the computer

— Have a consistent bedtime and wake time and try to make this apply to the weekends as well

— Be good role models for your children. Go to bed at a reasonable time and talk to them about the importance of sleep

How in the world are we going to model this for our kid(s)?

That study above was based on elementary aged students, but Nurture Shock also mentions this in regards to older children.

It is an overlooked fact that children – from elementary school through high school – get an hour less sleep each night than they did thirty years ago…There are as many causes for this lost hour of sleep as there are types of families. Overscheduling of activities, burdensome homework, lax bedtimes, televisions and cell phones in the bedroom – they all contribute. So does guilt; home from work after dark, parents want time with their children and are reluctant to play the hardass who orders them to bed.

Wow. Okay. I can totally see myself in many of the situations mentioned above in a few years. Can you? If today’s kids are getting an hour less sleep on average than we did as children, how is that going to affect them? The study referenced above mentioned that just an extra half hour of sleep made a big difference to those children. Can you imagine having functioned on an hour less sleep as a child than you did? I can’t wait to hear your opinions on this!

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Do you/will you follow the tips above for yourself (or your children)?

Did you have a set bedtime as a child? Will you have one for your child(ren)?

Do you remember feeling tired in school? 

How will/do you determine whether extracurricular activities are helping or hurting your child in the long run if they are affecting how much sleep s/he gets? 

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Comments

  1. This is a very interesting subject. I especially find it difficult for people to assume that what works for one family/child works for all. Both my kids have bedtimes. And we do have bedtime routines. However, just from one child to the next one, I have found that what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for the other.

    My son was an easy toddler. Went to bed easily at 7:30 p.m. every night. Even as he got older, he often would tell a babysitter that he was ready to go to bed (even when we said he could stay up past bedtime). He knows how much sleep he needs.

    However. As he reached school age and we found out he had ADHD/Aspergers–well, the medications that we reluctantly had to put him on can sometimes cause insomnia. And while it does mean that there are a few nights every so often that he doesn’t go to sleep exactly at bedtime–he seems to be fine in the morning, is an eighth grader making straight A’s. Which means, as a 13 year old, there are times we let him stay up with us so we can all watch The Walking Dead (without his sister around) and he goes to bed at 10 p.m. (ahem, like tonight)

    My daughter–oh my. She is completely opposite. She doesn’t ever want to go to sleep. She would just play and play and play if we let her. We know we have to be more strict with her at bedtime. We also know that (alas) a 7:30 p.m. bedtime is not for her. She needs more time to wind down. So, she goes to bed at 8:30 (which is sometimes weird cuz she is 4 and goes to bed only 1/2 hour earlier than her brother). But it works for her. And for us.

    • It’s interesting hearing from someone who already has 2 kids. I really wonder how Stella will be about this age, b/c I know that as a child I slept HOURS less than my sister did each night. Every kid truly is different, but I do know that I struggled a lot with tiredness during the day. We shall see…

  2. Do you/will you follow the tips above for yourself (or your children)? – YES. We will follow these for our kids – absolutely. We are firm believers in no electronics for 30-60 minutes before bed time, and enforce that with Matthew. We are not good at following it ourselves (not good at all) – but we will keep doing what we’re doing with Matthew. No electronics, no TV (ever, really – but that will change a bit), definite bed time, respect for bed time schedule no matter where we are, etc.

    Did you have a set bedtime as a child? Will you have one for your child(ren)? Yes we did – and it got 15-30 minutes later each year that we aged. The latest we ever stayed up before high school was 9:30. We will most defnitely have one for Matthew (we do now) but it will be going back to an earlier time here soon (he goes down no later than 8:30 now – which is too late).

    Do you remember feeling tired in school? In high school – yes. I was diagnosed with tension fatigue though – and was getting plenty of sleep. Prior to high school, I always felt well rested.

    How will/do you determine whether extracurricular activities are helping or hurting your child in the long run if they are affecting how much sleep s/he gets? I have no idea 😉

    • I really like the no electronics time before bed rule. Somehow I need to get my husband and I to follow this rule as well. It’s hard though!

  3. Oh my. This is my child. The child who refuses to sleep and is awful if she doesn’t get enough sleep. We’ve gotten rid of evening things that go past 6:30pm so she can settle down enough to start going to bed by 7:30 and be something approaching asleep by 8:30pm (namely, her lights go off at 7:30 and there’s some up and down for at least 45 minutes most nights). I was thinking before we made the insane child/not sleeping enough child connection that she could be in whatever extracurricular her little heart desired, and now there is no way. She must sleep so that I can sleep so that we all act like humans and not angry sleep-deprived zombies. And YES that half hour of sleep makes a world of difference, and I didn’t believe it at all until we got her to sleep longer once, and we woke up to a totally different child.

    I also never had a regular sleep schedule as a child (and that continued forever since my parents never caught on that it was a problem) and was tired for ages until I got to college and realized that I need 8.5+ hours of sleep a night or I have a bad time of it. I got into piles of extracurriculars and I think that it was probably much less useful than sleeping would have been.

    So for us, whatever extracurriculars are out there, they don’t matter if they mean that she doesn’t get enough sleep. Sleep first and the rest of the world will fall into place after that.

    • That’s definitely what I’m thinking about it. I was in loads of extracurriculars as well, but ALWAYS tired. There’s a point where it’s no longer a benefit I’d think.

      Off topic, but did you get my email today?

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  1. […] responded to a recent pediatric research study with a post entitled “Kids with More Sleep Cope Better.” We have all had some sort of issue with getting our kids to go to sleep, or stay asleep, […]

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