Are Your Children Getting Enough ZZZZ’s?

July 22, 2012

 

According to research, the answer may well me no. James B. Maas PHD, one of the nation’s leading sleep experts, says, “Almost all teen-agers, as they reach puberty, become walking zombies because they are getting far too little sleep.”

This is not only a teenage problem. Younger children are also at risk for the effects of sleep deprivation. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children ages 1O to 17 need 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep each night. Lack of sleep can have a big impact on children’s learning. Children’s brains continue to develop until the age of 21, and much of that “work-in-progress” brain development occurs while a child is asleep.

Students who do not receive adequate sleep are far more groggy and irritable during the day. Recent research also tracks an association between lack of sleep and poor grades. A survey out of Brown University Medical School, found that students who received C’s, D’s and F’s in school obtained less sleep than those receiving A’s and B’s. Not only does lack of sleep affect young people’s cognitive skills, behavior and temperament are also affected. Teens especially are more at risk for engaging in risky behaviors. It is believed that lack of sleep may decrease the teen’s ability to understand the consequences of risky behavior. In addition, many researchers have noted, there is a greater vulnerability to psychopathologies such as depression and ADHD, and to have more difficulty controlling emotions and impulses.

Some researchers are even encouraging schools to push back school starting times so that children can get more rest. Several states are putting forth legislative bills that would prohibit public schools from starting before 8:30 a.m.

There are things that parents can do, namely, setting reasonable bed time goals, especially for younger children.  Be aware of over-scheduling activities, limit television evening hours, internet use and cell phones in the bedroom. Teachers also need be aware of not requiring overly burdensome homework. As children become older, these goals become more difficult to enforce due to increasing social affiliations and academic pressures.

It is important for everyone to realize the importance of a good night’s sleep. Good sleep patterns need to be established early in life. The research that continues to link lack of sleep to cognitive development and emotional difficulties are too important to be ignored.

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