Most children aged five to 12 need 10-11 hours of sleep. However, because of homework, sports and other extracurricular and social activities they are frequently "sleep deprived." School-aged children spend time in the evening on "screens" which can lead to difficulty falling asleep, nightmares and disruptions to their sleep. In particular, watching TV close to bedtime has been associated with bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep, anxiety around sleep and sleeping fewer hours. Consumption of food or beverages with caffeine in the afternoon or evening also disrupts sleep. And then this weekend we had a daylight savings time adjustment which also disrupts sleep patterns.
Sleep problems can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems such as hyperactivity and cognitive problems that impact on their ability to learn in school. My favorite study to share with parents was done by Tel Aviv University researchers who found that missing just one hour of sleep can be enough to reduce a child’s cognitive abilities by almost two years the next day. Not getting enough sleep has also been proven to take its toll on the overall health of people's eyes. Sleep debt has physical and psychological effects.
Parents need to be encouraged to start bedtime routines early and check to see children are actually going to sleep at a reasonable time. Here are some tips to share
Sleep Tips for School-aged Children (by sleepfoundation.org)
- Teach school-aged children about healthy sleep habits.
- Continue to emphasize need for regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
- Make child's bedroom conducive to sleep – dark, cool and quiet.
- Keep TV and computers out of the bedroom.
- Avoid caffeine.