We live in a time where many of our children and families are chronically over-scheduled. Many families are having a hard time getting their kids to all the different activities they are involved in every day. This is all on top of parents’ commitments to their jobs and any involvement that they might have in church or civic organizations.
In addition, the sheer number of activities available to children today is staggering. With more and more of these activities becoming year-round endeavors the pressure it puts on the availability of fields, courts, gymnasiums, rinks, and other facilities where these activities take place is immense. This often means practices in the early morning hours and games and practices that don’t conclude until 9 or 10 in the evening are commonplace.
The impact of these busy schedules makes it difficult for kids to get the sleep that experts recommend.
How Much Sleep Do Kids Need?
According to the National Sleep Foundation most school-age children from the ages of 6 to 13 need 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night with some children needing as much as 12 hours of sleep each night. They also say that the sleep requirements for teenagers from the ages of 13 to 17 need 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night with some teens needing as much as 11 hours per night.
The sleep recommendations listed above are general guidelines. Each person is unique and may need more or less sleep than the amounts outlined above. However, most people will fall into these ranges and if someone doesn’t get the sleep they need it can make it more challenging for them to perform at their best and maintain optimal health.
Kids Are Not Getting Enough Sleep
Many reports show that both school-aged kids, as well as teens, are getting less sleep than they did in previous years and many youths are not falling into the guidelines mentioned above.
So how can you tell if your child is getting enough sleep? One tip that Dr. Jennifer Shu gives parents to help them figure out if their children are getting enough sleep is, if their child wakes up fairly happy and easily in the morning and does not have a meltdown in the late afternoon from being over-tired, he or she is probably well-rested.
Does Getting Enough Sleep Help Kids Do Better in School?
For as long as we can remember parents have been telling their children that they need to get to bed early because they have school the next day. But do students who get enough sleep really do any better in school? Is there any evidence that sleep really makes a difference?
Actually, there is quite a bit of evidence showing that sleep makes a difference in how kids do in school.
One study that shows the impact sleep has on elementary school student grades was conducted by Canadian researchers. During a 6-week sleep education study of elementary school students in Montreal students who were in a group that learned about healthier sleep habits received 18.2 minutes of additional sleep per night on average when compared to students in the control group. The group of children who received this extra sleep saw their math and English grades improve significantly over the course of the study while no changes were noted in the control group. So something as little as 20 extra minutes of sleep can positively impact the academic lives of elementary school students.
Here is a video from the Today show that talks about the study:
As children get older and become teenagers getting the proper amount of sleep continues to have a positive impact on a student’s academic success. In an article about how sleep deprivation is impacting the health of teens, the American Psychological Association reported on a couple of studies that explored the connection between the amount of sleep teens get and their academic performance in high school. In one study 3,000 high school students found a connection between sleep deprivation and poorer grades where students who were receiving C’s, D’s, and F’s in school were getting approximately 25 minutes less sleep and went to bed about 40 minutes later than their counterparts who were getting A’s and B’s. Another study of over 7,000 high school students whose schools switched from a 7:15 am start time to 8:15 am start time found that these students not only got more sleep but also reported slightly higher grades, along with other benefits, when compared with students whose schools continued to have earlier start times.
Can Kids Make Up for Lost Sleep With Naps or Sleeping in on the Weekends?
So your child isn’t getting enough sleep. Can’t they just sleep in or take naps on the weekends to catch up on their sleep?
Taking a short 10 – 20 minute catnap can help give people a short-term boost to help improve alertness, performance, and mood. However, finding time to nap isn’t always easy. This is especially true for kids who don’t have time to nap because school, homework, and outside activities often have their schedules packed full, which might be the reason why they aren’t getting enough sleep to begin with.
So what about the weekends? Many people believe that you can make up for lost sleep on the weekends. Is this true? A Harvard study about chronic sleep loss and the impact it has on performance shows that it is extremely difficult to catch up on sleep. So sleeping in on the weekends to make up for inadequate sleep during the week doesn’t look like the ideal solution either.
So it looks like the best solution is to find ways to get more sleep each night during the school week.
Getting Quality Sleep Matters
Just as important as having a regular bedtime routine that allows you to get the amount of sleep you need the quality of the sleep you get is important too.
Sleep researchers will talk about efficiency, which basically refers to how well you sleep at night. In an interview with Time magazine, Dr. Reut Gruber defined sleep efficiency as, “The proportion of the amount of time you slept to the amount of time you were in bed.” So while it is important to give your child the opportunity to get enough sleep having them make the most of that time is of equal importance.
That is why it is important to do things that will make it easier for your kids to sleep. Things, like turning off the television and other electronics before bedtime and removing electronics from the bedroom, might be good things to consider
Here is to your child’s success!
Image Credits: Katrina Br*?#*!@nd on Flickr