It amazes me how sleep deprived our young children are. With some years of experience under my belt as a School Counselor, I began to realize that many problems in elementary age children could be prevented if children were simply getting enough rest. I-pads, phones, gaming systems, and t.v.’s are robbing our children of the recommended amount of shut-eye and we are seeing the effects in schools.
Anyone have a child who emotional, overly sensitive, irritable, or irrational when they get sleepy or hungry? They all are but they never realize it, of course! It’s true that some kids are more sensitive than others (and I know I must have my beauty rest and food or I’m a mess!). But, most children need the recommended 9-12 hours of sleep that they aren’t getting.
Yesterday, a school ‘friend’ who is actually a bit younger than my son was having a rough day. He’s 10 but has a teenage sister. He’s way more exposed to adult things than my son but also way more immature than him. He gets easily frustrated and makes foolish mistakes both in his academics and behavior. So, he asked to see me yesterday when he was needing a break and in “recovery”.
It was wise to ask for what he needs, rather than get in trouble, but I could tell he was on edge and struggling. And, I know him well so one of the first things I asked him was what time he went to sleep last night. -12 a.m.- He gets up at 6 a.m. to get ready for the bus. Now, I’m here to tell you that I’d be sleepy and angry with 6 hours of sleep, and I’m not 10. 6 hours of sleep!? He knew that 12 a.m. was late but he had NO idea that he only got 6 hours of sleep.
He laughed when I told him how much his body and brain needed to function at an optimal level (9-12 hours). No way was he going to sleep at 9 like my children because that’s when he comes inside, he said! Like many kids with older siblings, it’s hard to enforce different bed-times. But, this 10- year old is getting 5-8 hours of sleep a night. He plays on his phone after his dad has told him good night because he’s one of many kids I know who sleep with their devices.
Sure, parents like his can say goodnight but that’s not stopping kids. Most children don’t have enough self-control to want to choose sleep over devices so we have to remove this temptation. It’s hard enough with the homework and practices in the evening. The older they get, the later they start practices (and I hate that)! So on the evenings when we are home, we have to enforce what’s best for them even if it’s not what they like. Just look online and you can find an abundance of research to support this theory that kids with devices aren’t getting as much sleep as their peers!
We need our sleep! Weight gain, attention, memory, self-regulation, and irritability can all be linked to sleep, and kids aren’t getting enough. So when in doubt, try giving your kid some healthy, real food and getting them to sleep a little earlier. Make it even easier by just not allowing devices and gaming during the week. Their brains have enough to think about as is! And, make sleep a priority.