Nine hours of shut-eye each night?

Yes, that is what experts suggest – children should sleep for at least nine hours each night. A good way to know that your kids are getting enough sleep is to check if they get up refreshed in the morning, with little or no cajoling. They however may not be getting enough sleep if they sleep in class, are irritable, display low energy through the day, avoid physical activity, and display lack of concentration. Of course these symptoms do not necessarily indicate lack of sleep, however lack of sleep ‘can’ cause these symptoms.

It appears that not sleeping enough affects our children’s lives much more dramatically than common sense would suggest. The effects range from irritability, poor performance at school and playground, and all the way to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and infections.

Experts estimate that 40% of the world’s children are not getting enough sleep. Why? One reason, I’d hazard, is that most parents are not aware of the consequences of lack of sleep and therefore do not enforce strict lights-out rules or initiate other interventions to help their children sleep better and longer.

I am not an expert but I have two concrete suggestions:

  1. Get the TV, computer and video games out of the kids’ bedrooms: If they have these things in their bedrooms, they are likely to use them at night and not get enough sleep.
  2. Create opportunities for, and encourage participation in physical activities: Too many kids spend too much time in front of screens and are not physically tired by day end. Lack of sleep makes them tired during the day and they don’t have the energy for physical activity.

The only caution I’d like to offer is: do not expect results ‘overnight’, literally and figuratively. If the child is in the habit of sleeping at 11:00 pm do not expect her to hit the sack at 9:00 pm tomorrow. The body, I believe, has a bio-clock that takes time to adjust. Work with the kids and give them time. One simple, though somewhat unconventional, solution is to go and camp some place where there is no electricity. All participants will be forced to get to bed early and sleep long.

Links:
An ‘eye-opening’ interactive sleep quiz at National Institute of Health website:

According to National Sleep Foundation Toddlers (1-3 years) need about: 12-14 hours of sleep each night, preschoolers (3-5 years) need about: 11-13 hours each night and school-aged Children (5-12 years) need about: 10-11 hours of sleep

Take Charge of Your Child’s Sleep: The All-in-One Resource for Solving Sleep Problems in Kids and Teens (ISBN:156924362X) by Jodi Mindell, Judith Owens

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