Not getting enough sleep can slow kids down in more ways than one. Here are some tips to catch up on the ‘z’s
Not even kids are sleeping like babies these days. Many schoolgoing kids are missing at least an hour of necessary sleep a night, and more than half of teens report feeling too tired during the day. Because chronic sleep deprivation may weaken the immune system, tired kids may be at higher risk of catching colds, flu, and other infectious diseases. They also have a harder time earning those As in school, studies show. “Sleep deprivation appears to interfere with memory and with the brain’s ability to organise information,” says Gahan Fallone, an associate professor at the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield (Illinois). “It also makes it harder for kids to block out distractions and to focus.” In fact, teachers may catch problems parents miss.
These strategies can help your child get more high-quality slumber:
DICTATE LIGHTS OUT
When parents set the bedtime, kids average 45 minutes more sleep per night than when they decide for themselves, a recent Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth national poll found. Parents should continue to set bedtime through middle school and even high school. Once you decide on a time, be consistent.
PRACTICE TIME MANAGEMENT
Getting your child to bed should be taken just as seriously as getting her to school each morning. Schedule homework and dinner early to keep snooze time from slipping away. Reruns of favourite TV programmes that air past bedtime can be watched later.
DESIGNATE ONE DAY OF THE WEEK AS STAY-UP-LATE NIGHT
If you’d like to watch a long movie with your child or enjoy another bedtimeblowing activity, do it on Friday — then get back on track Saturday and Sunday. We all have biological clocks that reset themselves every day. If you let your child stay up late and sleep late all weekend, you’ve reset her clock ahead by several hours. She won’t sleep well Sunday night, and she'll start the week with a sleep gap.
NIX KID CAFFEINE
You wouldn’t give your child coffee before bed, but java's not the only source of stay-awake jitters. Chocolate, bottled iced teas, energy drinks, even some fruit sodas are caffeinated, too. One caffeinated soda will rev up a 40-pound kid as much as two cups of coffee would an adult. Offer milk or water instead.
CREATE A NO-ELECTRONICS ZONE
Keep TV sets out of kids’ bedrooms; shut down or collect computers, cell phones, MP3 players, and video games a full hour before lights out in order to signal the brain that nighttime is starting and it’s time to sleep. “Every single study has shown that TV viewing, especially in a child’s own room, causes sleep problems.
SET A GOOD EXAMPLE
Kids see their parents burning the candle at both ends, then drinking coffee, caffeinated sodas, and energy drinks to stay alert. If you value sleep, your kids will, too.
How much sleep do they need?
2 months-1 year: 14-15 hours 1-3 years: 12-14 hours 3-6 years: 11-13 hours 6-12 years: 10-11 hours 12-18 years: 8 1/2-9 1/2 hours