I’m either going to
have to figure out how to get that kid to sleep, or get him a quieter bed.
“Lie still, Tim!”
Squeak, squeak, squeak.
“It’s not me.”
“Then who is it?”
“Tim? Who is it, then?”
“Who is what, then?”
“Who is making all
“It’s not me.
The ten year old had been
in bed for an hour and a half and was still awake!
The next morning, Tim was
the first child up. He’s always the first child up, even when it would be nice…on a holiday morning…to have
a quiet, and private breakfast with my husband. Tim is there, in the middle of things, bright-eyed and active. ( translate
We thought that maybe Tim
didn’t need as much sleep as some other children, but after doing some research, I’m not sure.
According to the National
Sleep Foundation (I wonder if I can sign up) 90% of parents believe their child gets enough sleep. But 60% of high school
students report feeling sleepy during the day. (It could just be the substitute teacher, but…) and over 25% fall asleep
in class at least once a week.
In fact, sleep scientists
did an experiment to see what the effect of just one lost hour of sleep would have. The difference in academic performance
was greater than the difference between a fourth grader and a sixth grader. That means that the sixth grader who was sleep
deprived performed at a fourth grade level. Two full years difference.
Dr. Paul Suratt of the University of Virginia
found that sleep disorders can impair IQ as much as exposure to lead.
Tired children, Dr. Suratt
concluded, can’t remember recently acquired informationbecause “tired”
neurons become less pliable and lose their ability to make the connections between synapses to encode the information. Plus,
sleep loss inhibits the body’s ability to extract glucose from the bloodstream. That is the source of energy.
And one part of the brain…the
one controlling impulses, predicting consequences and organizing thoughts to achieve a goal…is affected more than the
rest. So tired kids make poor choices. And they get stuck on the wrong answers, going back to them again and again.
We form memories during the
day, studies show, but it is at night, while we are asleep, that we associate things in our minds. That allows us to come
to new insights and solutions the next day.
So, how do you know if your
child is sleep-deprived?
Information from the University
of Michigan Health System says that school aged children need 9 to 12 hours of
sleep every night. Your child is getting enough sleep if they fall asleep in 15 to 30 minutes, wake up easily when you call
them and are alert all day.
If they can’t do this,
look for other symptoms of sleep deprivation. The National Sleep Foundation ( they aren’t returning my calls…I
want to volunteer for a study) says look for irritability late in the day (so that’s what’s wrong with me) or
falling asleep during quiet times. It also says that symptoms of sleep deprivation can mimic ADHD.
How do we help our kids get
Babies drift in and out of
sleep all night long. when they are sleeping “lighter” they notice things like hunger and loneliness or getting
cold. Then they wake up fully and cry.
But these light sleep periods
lessen as kids grow older. Toddlers are more apt to wake up because of things like teething pain. And as they get older, they
sleep deeper. But for older toddlers, night terrors can cause trouble.
For toddlers and infants,
regular nap times during the day and regular bedtimes will help children sleep. At night, have a routine. Read a book, tuck
them in, etc. Just be consistent.
Let the child have a stuffed
animal or a blankey. The comfort may help him sleep better and longer. Also, letting the child have a bottle of water, or
a sippy cup where he can reach it may help him sleep. He knows if he wants it, it is there.
Against all advice, you may
want to allow the child to sleep in the same room with you.
You could make a pallet on
the floor beside your bed and tell the child if he needs to, he can come in and sleep there.
Stay away from desserts,
sugars and sodas—especially those with caffeine—late in the afternoon and evening.
Older children still need
They may benefit from SOFT
music ( not rap or hard rock) or tapes /CDs with water or wind sounds. The child might even find that SOFT radio static helps them tune out other distractions at sleep time.
Make video games off limits
in the evenings—it is hard for kids to get the images out of their minds. THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE OF ADHD KIDS.
Shutting off TV half an hour
before bedtime is a good idea as well.
And don’t let kids
be physically active before bedtime.
Keep bedrooms cool. This
is because the system that regulates our bodies’ sleep cycles
( the circadian rhythm system)
is light and temperature sensitive. A hot room means less REM ( deep) sleep.
Some meds (for depression,
ADHD, can make it hard for kids to sleep. Ask your doctor about the meds you child is on.
Sometimes, kids can have
breathing disorders that interfere with sleep as well. Our child has a form of asthma which manifests itself mainly in nighttime
coughing and restlessness. The doctor reccommended giving him his Singulair half an hour before bedtime. This really
Teenagers still need about
9 to 10 hours of sleep. But their sleep rhythms change at this age. They still need lots of sleep, but they often don’t
get sleepy until around 1or 2 in
That means they aren’t
ready to wake up until 10 or 11 in the morning. (Or .) This is called a
“delayed sleep phase.” It is still important to have regular bedtimes
for teens, because even in view of this different cycle, their schedule is determined by the adult clock (school schedules,
And for other tips on getting
more sleep, see the archived article “You Need Sleep”