Making Sure Your Child Gets Enough Sleep
The Better Sleep Council offers 10 "dos" and "don'ts" to ensure that your child gets the sleep he or she needs to be a star student.
- DO help your child to get at least nine hours of sleep each night. To be their best, children need at least nine hours of sleep every night.
- DON'T over-schedule your child. Too many after-school activities and commitments can keep children from precious sleep. Allow your child plenty of time for homework and chores each night to ensure that they are not forced to stay up past their bedtime.
- DO set a regular bedtime for your child and stick to it. A regular bedtime can help ensure your child gets a full night's sleep.
- DON'T allow your child to consume caffeine too close to bedtime. Consuming caffeine, found in soda and chocolate, in the evening can make it more difficult for your child to fall asleep.
- DO help your child wind down early in the evening. Tackle science projects, book reports and other homework either before or right after dinner. Allow your child at least one hour before bedtime to relax and unwind.
- DON'T allow your child to fall asleep in front of the television. Noise from a television, radio or even loud conversations can keep your child from deep, restful sleep.
- DO make sure your child's bedroom is dark. Be sure the lights are turned off and the shades are closed in your child's room before he or she goes to bed. While a small nightlight is fine, if necessary, a dark room is most conducive for a good night's sleep.
- DON'T skimp on your child's mattress. Handing down an old mattress to a child just isn't a good idea. Because mattresses wear out over time, it's important to maximize your child's chances of restful sleep by making sure he or she is sleeping on a good-quality, comfortable mattress.
- DO help your child develop a sleep ritual. Routine activities like taking a bath or reading with your child can help him or her unwind and get into sleep mode.
- DON'T let your child's room get too warm or too cool. Children (and adults) may have a difficult time falling and staying asleep in a room that's too warm or too cool. The ideal sleeping temperature is around 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
For more information on getting a good night's sleep or on buying a new mattress, visit the Better Sleep Council's Web site at www.bettersleep.org.
What Difference Does an Hour Make in Children's Sleep Patterns?
The modest sleep loss that results from going to bed an hour later than usual can compromise children's alertness and brain functioning, a new study suggests.
Previous studies of adults have found that sleep deprivation significantly impairs the brain's executive control system, which helps people organize, prioritize and focus on tasks. But few sleep-deprivation studies have focused on children, and those few have tended to examine extreme rather than modest sleep deprivation.
"The daily struggles between children and their parents usually occur at home and are often limited to modest changes in sleep," says author Avi Sadeh of the department of psychology at Tel Aviv University in Israel. "Persistent battles on topics such as 'just one more TV show' raise the scientific question: 'What difference does an hour make?'"
To help answer this question, Sadeh and colleagues studied the effects of adding or subtracting one hour of sleep on more than 75 children in fourth and sixth grades. For the first two nights of the five-night study period, the children adhered to their normal sleep pattern, and for the last three nights the children were asked either to extend or reduce their sleep time by one hour.
Children who got an extra hour of sleep actually experienced more night-wakings and a decreased percentage of sleep. Reducing sleep by one hour had the opposite effect: It resulted in decreased night-wakings and an increased percentage of sleep, the researchers found.
Previous researchers have identified these effects as the body's way of adapting to sleep loss, but in this study, the sleep-deprived children reported significantly higher fatigue ratings in the evening. In addition, their performance on several neurobehavioral tests compared unfavorably with the children who received an extra hour of sleep. The sleep-deprived children's performance on the reaction time test suffered, and their performance on the recall and responsiveness tests remained stable, while the children with the extra hour of sleep improved their performance on these tests.