Friday, August 25, 2017

The True Value of a Good Night's Sleep

The correlation between sleep times, behavior and health is real and it's scary. There can be lifelong consequences. Let's start the new year off with new routines.
This Home-School Connection blog post involves sleep for our students. Teachers have been saying this for year's...and now we have science to back us up. We know children aren't getting enough sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids ages 6 to 12 need 9 to 12 hours of sleep a night. While watching Good Morning America this week, I found myself trying to get screen shots of a sleep study with school age students. The study was alarming to say the least.
The correlation between sleep times, behavior and health is real and it's scary. There can be lifelong consequences. Let's start the new year off with new routines.

Classroom Consequences

The study, Lack of Sleep Tied to Diabetes Risk, is very concerning.  Some of the effects can be verified by any school employee in any school. Students who have a diminished amount of sleep with have problems with decreased academic performance, irritability and behavior problems and difficulty concentrating. (I think I just heard you say, "Duh!") Without fail, we can all name a student who suffers like this. One of the first things I ask when talking to a student who is having difficulty is, "What time do you go to bed?" I am often shocked about the answers I get. I have had students who stay up later than I do. Crazy! We cannot expect a tired child to learn in the same way as their rested peers. I would be willing to bet the number of office referrals could have a direct link to sleep patterns. The truly scary part of the study though, isn't the difficulties in school. School difficulties is the tip of the iceberg...and we know from the Titanic, it's not the ice you can see that's the problem...it's the ice you can't.

Health Consequences

The truly scary part of the study is the lasting effects of too little sleep on a child's health. Children with little sleep have a higher risk of increased injuries during physical activities, high blood pressure, obesity, depression and Type 2 Diabetes. OMG! This should get everyone's attention. We are allowing bedtimes to create problems for our children. These effects can lead to medication and monitoring for a lifetime. We are putting our children at risk...and it can be solved.

Where to start...

We have to regulate children's sleep...they can't. I have heard parents tell me they allow their child to go to sleep when they get tired. As adults, we can adjust our sleep patterns when we are tired. We go to sleep early after a few late nights, and we self-regulate our sleep patterns. However, children can't self-regulate. They get in a habit of staying up late for way too many nights, then having a crash and burn night, usually proceeded by a meltdown of some scale. This isn't healthy. It's medically proven our metabolism needs good sleep to regulate blood sugar, metabolize nutrients, and renew energy. We have to regulate children's sleep...for their own good.
The correlation between sleep times, behavior and health is real and it's scary. There can be lifelong consequences. Let's start the new year off with new routines.
Parents need to schedule a time for bed. Just like we schedule waking up and eating breakfast and getting on the bus...we have to make bedtime a priority. The reluctant sleeper might need a warning, "It will be bedtime in 30 minutes, so let's clean up our toys." Continued reminders and relieve stress and allow children to anticipate bedtime. "We are going to bed in 15 minutes, let's get on pjs and read a book." Setting a routine may take a few nights or even weeks, but the benefits, obviously are worth it. Another big recommendation from the study is taking all electronic out of the bedroom. Children who have access to electronics will have a much harder time relaxing and falling to sleep. We have to "power down" their brains, just like we "power down" the electronics.

Now is the time...

As we get ready for a new school year, make the change. I don't recommend you go "cold turkey" on your family, but you have to work for new routines. Start by choosing an appropriate bedtime, let's say 8:00 for arguments sake. Start by going to bed at 9:00 for a week, then 8:30 for a week, and finally, 8:00. Choosing routines is also important.

  • Will you take a bath? Taking time to relax and wash away the yuck of the day can be a great start to the bedtime routine. 
  • Will you read? Choose a manageable book or number of books, so your child can know when the reading time will end. My boys and I would read a chapter a night. We would talk about Jack and Annie, Horrible Harry, or the Bailey School Kids. Wonder what will happen next in the story?
  • Will you choose clothes for the next day? One of the best ideas for this part of our evening involved a 5 drawer plastic container. They had to come up with 5 shorts, 5 shirts, underwear, and socks in 5 piles on their bed. Then, they would put one complete outfit in a drawer...labeled Monday, Tuesday, and so on. This made the mornings so easy.

It's a matter of life and death...
I know this sounds a little melodramatic, but not according to the study, is it? This study shows the vital importance of bedtimes...and it isn't a joke. The consequences are seen in school and in the health of our children. Watch the GMA segment for yourself.

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The correlation between sleep times, behavior and health is real and it's scary. There can be lifelong consequences. Let's start the new year off with new routines.

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