“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” – Benjamin Franklin
And on the other side of the coin insufficient sleep will make children:
- Lacking in confidence.
- Inattentive; and
- Fall behind in class
If this sounds like your youngster then it is so easy to fix.
Much study has been devoted to knowing how much sleep is needed, or not needed, to remain healthy and productive. The conclusion being “…. there is a lot of individual differences in what children and adolescents need to sleep to be at their best.” (Australian Centre for Sleep Education).
As a general guide, primary school students require between ten and twelve hours of sleep per day, while secondary (higher) school students get by with eight to ten hours each night. Research has indicated children of any age will arise at about the same time each day so the difference in hours of slumber occurs at the time of going to bed.
What time should a child go to bed to be at their peak the next day? To make this exercise easier and because Australian schools commence at 9:00 a.m. let’s assume our children get up at seven to start their day during the week. This would require a primary school student to be in bed by 7:00 p.m. and no later than 9:00 the night before, and our secondary student in bed by 9:00 pm no later than 11:00.
The younger the child the more sleep required. Students from grades one to three require closer to twelve hours of sleep each weeknight while those from grade four to six/seven may drop to needing ten hours of sleep.
Problems occur with teenagers as their bodies are not ready for sleep when the clock says it is time for bed and they stay up whiling away the hours until slumber overtakes them. Unfortunately, the activities they do while waiting to sleep may not be conducive to bringing sleep on and they miss out on their required sleep quota. They then go into sleep debt which they try to reclaim on weekends by sleeping in. This problem may be compounded by staying up later during weekend nights to interact with friends and sleeping even more of the morning away to further knock the body clock around and make sleeping during the week more difficult. As a parent, you must take control of this situation.
Children deprived of sleep, like adults, are hard to rouse and will feel sleepy during the early part of the day. Unlike adults, primary school students will become more active during the day, though still be less able to concentrate.
Because they have become more wired, they will be less likely to fall asleep easily, thus becoming more sleep deprived. Parents may have trouble identifying a young child who is not getting enough sleep because they are active.
Some home factors compound sleep deprivation in children. Families in general are not going to bed as early as they need. For one reason or another, parents are staying up later and as role models may be setting poor examples of a healthy lifestyle.
We see how the concentration of a child who has insufficient sleep is affected in our tuition room. A student who the previous week was performing wonderfully on our program suddenly has low scores and answers very few questions. When asked what they did the previous night the answer always involved a late night of movie watching, game playing, internet surfing or social media. We have also seen how a poor student changes so quickly when they stop being tired.
You can take steps to create good sleep habits by cleaning up the bedroom and time leading up to retiring. Some good sleep hygiene habits are:
- No T.V., computer, mobile phone or exercise 1 hour before going to bed.
- No T.V., computer, mobile phone in the bedroom.
- No coke or caffeine drinks 2-3 hours before sleeping.
- Set bedtimes and wake times and keep them to form healthy habits.
- As a parent, be a good role model and lead by example.
Visit the Australian Centre for Education in Sleep website for a more comprehensive read.
By Peter Kenyon: Tutor