by Dr. Lorin Bradbury
Question: With no school for the past year and chaotic schedules as a result of parents working and children left at home to do their own schoolwork, I am hearing more and more about kids staying up all night and sleeping during day. Please write about the importance of sleep and regular sleep-wake schedules.
Answer: I believe many of us are concerned for the children, particularly teenagers. It’s not only the loss of a year of school, but the bad habits that are being picked up during this time. I cannot stress the need for structure enough.
It is now believed by sleep researchers that children ages 5 to 12 need 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night. When you get enough sleep, you are able to do the following:
• Pay attention better in school
• Be more creative
• Solve problems better
• Maintain a better mood
• Be less irritable, so they can get along with friends and family better
• Their immune system will be in a better position to fight sickness so they will stay healthy and have fewer days out of class.
On the other hand, a lack of sleep can result in the following problems:
• Your child will be more likely to forget what has been learned
• Have trouble making good choices
• Have a greater tendency to be grumpy and in a bad mood
• Negatively impact successfully playing games and sports
• Reduce the ability to be patient with siblings and friends
• Increases the risk for not listening to parents and teachers
Another concern is parents who do not provide regular sleep schedules for their children. This is often the result of parents who themselves are less disciplined and don’t keep regular sleep schedules. Results of recent research suggest that students with an irregular bedtime schedule may also experience poor sleep quality. Poor sleep quality leads to the problems listed above. Even though children are not attending school in a classroom, it is in your child’s best interest to get sufficient sleep at regular times seven days a week. There are some steps you can take to see to it that your child gets enough sleep:
• Turn off all electronic devices (TV, Internet, cell phones, iPods, etc.) early in the evening. In fact, you should have a place to turn in all of those electronic devices, and unless you are on-call for work, you should set the example and do the same.
• Don’t let guests in the home set the environment. Take charge for your children’s sake. Inform visitors that you want quiet time in the evening for your children (you will find that it benefits you as well).
• Set limits for how many family members, extended family, guests, etc. can stay at your house at the same time.
• Get up early yourself. This will likely cause you to want to go to sleep earlier. Develop a schedule for yourself and the children. There are things they can do in addition to their schoolwork at home. There should be chores and consistent mealtimes, along with their schoolwork.
Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]