Still Counting Sheep

A few weeks back I wrote about the negative effects of sleep deprivation, noting that research shows that many students suffer from poor sleep habits.  [See previous post here]  In this post I want to share some additional tips about the value of sleep, especially for youth.

 

Signs of Sleep Deprivation in Students

According to the National Sleep Foundation, there are three tell-tale signs that students are sleep deprived:

  • Waking up in the morning is a challenge and a child cannot “get going” within 15 minutes
  • Snoozing at least 2 extra hours on weekends and holidays
  • Crashing during short (10- or 15-minute) daytime car rides or other non-sleep times (school, play times, extra-curricular events)

 

Age-by-Age Daily Sleep Needs

AGE HOURS
4-12 months 12 to 16 hours
1 to 2 years 11 to 14 hours
3 to 5 years 10 to 13 hours
6 to 12 years 9 to 12 hours

 

 

So, Why So Much Sleep?

In a culture where parents are bombarded with activity options for their children – i.e. soccer, karate, music, reading, etc. – it is important that in the quest to provide a well-rounded set of opportunities, parents consider simplifying a child’s schedule to provide for an “on time arrival” to bed each evening.

Kiran Maski, a pediatric neurologist and a sleep physician, says children need sufficient sleep for physical, emotional, and cognitive health.  “Plus, insufficient sleep has been shown to be a predictor of high blood pressure, obesity, insulin resistance, mood disorders, attention issues, and more” she continues.

 

What’s Happening During Sleep?

Research shows that during sleep, a number of critical things are taking place within the body.  Without an adequate amount of sleep, a child misses out on many of the benefits that come to the brain and body during sleep time.  So exactly what is going on for what one writer called “the busy sleeper?”

  • Brain is processing information – what one writer described as “off-line processing.” Reut Gruber, psychologist and director of the Attention Behavior and Sleep Lab (Montreal), noted that in kids from ages 7 to 11, a good night’s sleep is directly related to higher grades in math and language.  Of course, a student’s grades in math and language are significant predictors of future learning and academic success.
  • Body is growing – research indicates that much of the body’s bone growth occurs at night during sleep.
  • Dreams – impact the cognitive and emotional development of children. Dreams affect the emotional and interpersonal relationships that children have even when they are awake.
  • Regulates appetite
  • Increases attentiveness – positively affects the “executive function” skills of a child. Sleep-deprived children often appear no differently than children with ADHD.
  • Strengthens the heart and recharges the immune system
  • Improves emotional stability – My children and grandchildren just came to visit for the Christmas season. Their trip included a time change of fifteen time zones and at least one 13-hour flight.  Sleep deprivation for just a couple of days affected the child’s behavior, appetite, emotions, etc.  By the way, it affected the same traits in the parents as well.

 

So What?

It is important that as educators we are able to assist parents with information that will help them to better direct their children’s daily activities.  Selfishly, better rested children will be better students.  But further, better rested children will be better able to presently and in the future learn and live the mind of Christ.  So let’s help parents to keep their children Counting Sheep.

 

Goldman, L.  (January, 2018).  The busy sleeper; Parents.

 

Edward is the founder and managing editor of Focus on Christian Education. He also serves as the Executive Director of the South Carolina Association of Christian Schools.