Friday was World Sleep Day. Had we been well rested and on our game that day, we might have learned about new research into the challenges kids face when they don’t get enough shut-eye.
While we can’t get those sleepless hours back, we can catch-up on learning about what parents can do to prevent sleep deprivation.
“Studies show 20 percent of children don't get the recommended amount of sleep, and up to 40 percent have poor sleep schedules,” according to the Sleep Health Foundation in Australia.
In our house, sleep is often something that happens to other people.
My husband works nights – Tuesday through Saturday – and has always shredded everyone’s sleep schedule by coming in just after midnight and making the same level of noise as someone who works days would make when arriving home.
At 1 a.m., like clockwork, we hear the microwave running, china clanking, and cabinets banging.
I can vouch for the fact that the smell of bacon cooking at 1 a.m. is a trigger that could wake the dead, which may explain why we have all been moody zombies for so long.
Conversely, my husband tries to sleep during the day, while outside the bedroom window our neighbor, a chronic yard manicure technician, chops, blows, and trims his way into my husband’s fitful dreams.
So I am bereft that we missed World Sleep Day, but am taking it as an opportunity to learn more about how this chronic lack of sleep is affecting us so I can sort sleep deprivation behaviors from just plain old bad behavior in my sons.
Theodore Sectish, associate professor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said in an e-mail that when it comes to chronic lack of sleep in children, “It can lead to difficulty concentrating, crankiness, and difficulty modulating one's emotional state.”
Nick Antic, sleep physician and president of the Australasian Sleep Association, wrote in a release for World Sleep Day that "healthy sleep is not just about duration, it's about quality and having a consistent sleep routine that keeps your body clock in sync.”
A wide range of clinical sources offer data that shows inadequate sleep can result in tiredness, inability to focus, low threshold for stress, tantrums, difficulty modulating impulses and emotions, and other behavioral issues.
Specialists such as Mr. Antic tell parents not to allow children to watch television, play electronic games, or consume caffeine late at night.
Here’s the number crunch on the amount of sleep recommended for children and teens each night (not including naps), according to the Sleep Health Foundation:
- Newborns (up to 2 months): 12 to 18 hours
- Infants (2 months to 1 year): 14 to 15 hours
- Toddlers (1 to 3 years): 12 to 15 hours
- Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 11 to 13 hours
- School age (5 to 12 years): 9 to 11 hours
- Teenage (12 to 18 years): 8.5 to 9.5 hours
- Adults: 7 to 9 hours
While my kids and I are getting pretty close to the right number of hours, the quality of those hours is sub-par.
Also, my teens have their laptops and phones in their rooms, which after reading this research is about to become a thing of the past.
In fact, my phone is going to sleep alone from now on as well, because I now realize that I am sleeping with one eye open as the phone vibrates constantly with social media notifications.
I have developed the bad habit of leaving my phone by the bed since our eldest went away to college last year.
I keep it by the bed because I worry about missing an imagined emergency text from our son.
If he needs me, he will call the house phone.
Poet William Blake had the best advice, “Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.”