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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