“Jonah, Jonah,” I repeated. Jonah’s mom had dropped him off a few minutes early, and he had fallen asleep in the waiting room. I had a tough time waking him up. Jonah, like lots of kids today suffers from sleep deprivation. How about your kids?
Kids (and adults) who don’t get enough sleep can’t function properly. Sleep restores energy to the body, particularly to the brain and nervous system.
When your child doesn’t get enough sleep, she has trouble concentrating on her schoolwork and remembering what she’s learned, even controlling her temper. The amount of sleep people need varies. Most kids and teens need at least eight or more hours of sleep. Monitor your child to be sure she’s getting enough sleep, especially if she’s a teenager. Many teens suffer in school because they’re sleep-deprived. They stay up late and then get up early to be in class by 7:30.
Research has shown that this early school schedule isn’t in step with the biological clock of teenagers. They need early morning sleep and aren’t getting it.
Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation:
• Your child is constantly sleepy.
• Your child is cranky or sad.
• Your child has trouble concentrating.
• Your child gets hostile or weepy over small things.
• Your child reacts irrationally over the smallest decision, problem or assignment.
Three Strategies to Combat Sleep Deprivation:
1. Review the daily schedule. Work with your child to adjust her schedule so she doesn’t always end up doing homework late at night. Since children need to play at some point during the day and many teens are busy with after-school activities, this isn’t always easy. If your child continues to do homework late in the evening, go over her schedule and see what activities she can drop or move to a different time so she can get her homework done earlier.
Many parents encourage their children to get homework done as soon as they walk in the door, but many kids need to do something physical after school to unwind, and others need to relax and have some free time. Still others have trouble doing homework when their siblings or friends are out playing. It’s important to gauge what your child needs. Determine together the optimal time for doing homework every day. Help her stay on this schedule.
2. Make up for lost sleep. Allow your child to sleep in on weekends to make up for lost time during the week.
3. Work to have school open later. It’s a long shot, but talk to your school board members to see if it’s possible to shift the school day a little bit later. High school students in particular need a later school start. Starting school later has met with great success in some school districts. It sounds naive, but if enough parents and kids support this shift, it’s possible.
Get teachers behind the move. Be prepared. Do a search for the latest information. Since school principals and other administrators will want to see the research, bring several copies with you. Better yet, have copies of the research distributed ahead of time to everyone on the school board.
Remember that sleep deprivation not only gets in the way of school success, but can also cause health issues. When kids don’t get enough sleep, their immune systems are weakened. They get more colds and are more vulnerable to the flu and other illnesses. Then they miss school on top of it.
How do you get your kid to go to bed early enough? Please let us know. Our readers love to read your comments.