Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep?

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OK, today I am going to write about something that we have heard a lot about, all agree with and yet when parents bring their children to see me almost one-for-one this point is violated.

It is violated in ourselves as well, which I suppose justifies it somewhat. You can research it anywhere on the Internet, in the library, in medical journals and more. I’ve not met one person that disagrees with the data. It has been proven to be the cause of depression, foggy and slow thinking, sometimes hyperactivity, weight gain, dental problems, heart problems, as well as a long list of other things I don’t remember at the moment.

And it is a big cause of TANTRUMS!

Have you guessed what it is yet? Yep, insufficient sleep.

I researched the subject many years ago, long before the subject was so popular because my son, who was a “night owl” just could not fall asleep before midnight even when he would lie in bed quietly for hours. It seemed we tried everything. The result was that he was a constant problem in school. In desperation I ended up home schooling as letting him sleep later caused all those problems to just vanish.

Television, Internet and Your Child’s Sleep

Now many people do not have children who are “night owls” and yet today when parents come in for help with their children’s tantrums it usually starts with this. So what is the problem here? Well I have found that several things have come into play. First, most parents have not been educated in the subject of sleep and how much a human body needs at each age. I know that sounds crazy, I mean our parents never gave us this data and probably didn’t even have this data. They just did what their parents did or were observant about the children looking or acting tired. But now let’s exam this: Parents of the 1940’s-1965ish didn’t have as much media access and indoctrination as we do today. Now, I am going to confess that I too have been guilty of some of the things I am discussing here. And I am not trying to make TV and computers the evil of all evils but (and I know I am revealing something about my age here) when I was a kid I remember that on weeknights at 12:00 midnight the stations went off the air! They did! If you are around my age you will remember that, if you are not you are shocked now, right? Even if you had a TV in your house most people only watched it for a hour or two. The Television was never on when we ate. When we got together with friends we talked, played cards and games, went swimming, we seldom sat around and watched TV or movies together.

Today, the television and movies and even computers have become a babysitter. The kids have become used to watching it. They have favorite shows that they “can’t” miss. Some of the shows come on later and later. Or they start a movie a little too late and then we give in and let them watch the last little bit (sometimes an hour past their bed time which is already an hour later than they should be going to bed to have a well rested body because parents don’t know the correct information). While TV and computers aren’t always the source they are the most common ones.

Mechanics of Insufficient Sleep, and What it Does

When a human body is tired it starts to drain our energy. The unconscious part of the mind that contains all the pain and confusions of life tends to pull in on us. (In fact a great new DVD has been released about just that subject.) Because of this we find ourselves no longer in the present moment. Everything becomes too close, too raw and it doesn’t take much to snap. We are not getting our way, we are not getting what we intended and instead of analytically and logically communicating to work our way around the obstacles we break– we throw a tantrum.

OK, well in adults we don’t usually call it that, for adults I suppose it is “we just lose our tempers”: guess what? Same thing.

So of course, for a child whose body is still growing and using so much more energy the same thing will happen.

How Much Sleep is Enough Sleep for your Child?

So let me help you out here. I am going to give you the researched number of hours a human body should sleep at most ages. I won’t give you them all because I find that most parents do very well with infants and babies. It is usually about the time they turn three or four that the problem starts. Now don’t be shocked. Here they are:

Years:

Hours of sleep needed:

Bedtime (if child wakes up at around 7am):

3 years:

12 hours (11 hours + 1 hour nap)

07:00:00 PM

4 years:

11 ½ hours (usually nap has been dropped out)

07:30:00 PM

5 years:

11 hours

08:00:00 PM

6 years:

10 ¾ hours

08:15:00 PM

7 years:

10 ½ hours

08:30:00 PM

8 years:

10 ¼ hours

08:45:00 PM

9 years:

10 hours

09:00:00 PM

10 years:

9 ¾ hours

09:15:00 PM

11 years:

9 ½ hours

09:30:00 PM

12 years:

9 ¼ hours

09:45:00 PM

13 years:

9 ¼ hours

09:45:00 PM

14 years:

9 hours

10:00:00 PM

15 years:

8 ¾ hours

10:15:00 PM

16 years:

8 ½ hours

10:30:00 PM

17 years:

8 ¼ hours

10:45:00 PM

18 years:

8 ¼ hours

10:45:00 PM

Now for those of you who keep this in religiously of course you are saying: It’s a no-brainer! But for the majority of the people out there I know you are now in a panic and thinking no way! “Asking me to get my 13 year old to bed by 9:45 when they want to finish watching whatever show they are watching or are in the middle of some computer game is just not going to happen.” Well, while it is true that the world and the technology has changed rapidly I am sorry to say the human body just hasn’t changed that much. So please don’t shoot me I am just the messenger. However, if it is any consolation our parents did it so we should be able to do it as well. Steel yourselves and start with educating you child on these points. Get them to note how they feel when they are well rested and compare it against how they feel when they are not. Then work together to get them to make the correct decision to get to bed at a reasonable time. Make a game of it. Reward them for doing it! And if that fails call Mace-Kingsley Family Center and we will give you more tools to help you.

Conclusion

I guarantee you that once they are getting a sufficient amount of sleep for their bodies their lives and yours will be much easier. In fact you might be shocked at the difference in how well you are getting along, how much more rational they are (and you if you are getting it in for yourself) and how many less tantrums are occurring in the household.

Try it and let me know how it goes!

Diane Norgard
Parent Counselor
Mace-Kingsley Family Center

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