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The Importance of Sleep in a Child’s Life

I plan for 8-9 hours. My husband aims for less – maybe closer to 6 hours. My best pal tallies around 7 hours. What am I talking about? No, it’s not study or homework time. It is the time allotted for SLEEP. Yes, jokes aside, I have been told by some pals that I have sleep hours that mimic a toddler. I, however, resoundingly disagree. Why? It’s simple really. I base it on direct action of the clients that I work with and many parents that I meet. Need an example? OK – let’s talk about young children; in all fairness, those little people that we would consider to be toddlers. Do they get 9 hours of sleep a night? Sadly, no.  I’ve found that the importance of sleep in a child’s life has been underestimated in many cases.

The toddlers from my client sampling each got 6-7 hours of sleep a night on average. Before we get too far into this writing, these students included both boys AND girls. They were the typical, active young people, curious about a great many things, steadily developing, involved in sports/crafts, enrolled in private as well as public schools, some with siblings, others had divorced parents, and none of them were neurologically labeled with processing issues. Why was I involved as an advocate? The documented behavior and escalating reactions in classrooms noted by teachers.

The summer for all of them was fairly smooth as dictated to me from the parents. What changed as the school year progressed was a variety of things. Moments of noticeable despondent actions in specific settings. Some had increased loss of focus in class. Others had little to no recall of information presented during the school week. A couple of the kids would lash out with little to no trigger at all. When all of the behaviors and patterns were deeply discussed together, one of the first things that I honed in on was SLEEP. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Adults are routinely lacking in sleep… so it’s no wonder that it can also start to leak into the habits and routines of the younger folks residing in the home.

There was a medical study where the effect of 17-19 hours without sleep on adults was measured. After just one moderate ‘blip’ in sleep length, the adults had a cognitive decline equal to a blood alcohol level of 0.1*. That level is deemed intoxicated. That’s also a measured effect on a grown adult… not a growing child. This is a child bombarded with new information almost hourly. This is a child learning to emotionally self-regulate. This is a child learning social cues and body language. How well would the inebriated adult perform in these areas? Not so well. Why would we anticipate a small child navigating any part of their day with wide-spread, chronic, sleep deprivation without a great deal of stress, struggle, anxiety, or frustration?

When a customized sleep routine was arranged for each home, care to guess what happened? Yes, the noted behaviors all showed marked improvement. The biggest and most surprising shift of all happened within the FAMILY. They started to behave as a whole unit, better enabled to come together. There was more communication. Less arguing. Improved levels of cooperation. One household started with the sleep shift for their 2 children and soon it was embraced by the entire group (2 households). Everyone had a ‘’bedtime’’ mode. The father in this family said the routine gave him more creative time in the evenings to problem-solve his business. He was enjoying time with the family more because he knew he would have the free time later to think on things, make lists, or read up on content. The impact went beyond that of an academic issue in the family…and it led to deeper connections within the home.

Don’t just take my word for it. Pay closer attention to your own sleep schedule or that of your children. Modify it and see what happens.

*(Occup Environ Med. Oct 2000. (57):10. 649-655.) ————————-

Written by Heather Lascano

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The information provided in this site is intended for general informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice and is not intended to provide complete medical information. KidsMisdiagnosed, Inc does not offer personalized medical diagnosis of patient-specific treatment advice. All medical information presented should be discussed with your healthcare professional. Remember, the failure to seek timely medical advice can have serious ramifications. KidsMisdiagnosed, Inc urges you to discuss any current health related problems you or your child are experiencing with a healthcare professional immediately.