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Friday, 7 September 2012

The Gift of Sleep

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“[God] grants sleep to those he loves”    ~Psalm 127: 2b

“90% of behaviour problems in children are due to lack of sleep”   ~my husband

   As a parent and teacher I am keenly aware of the importance of sleep for people of all ages.  Starting when our children were babies, our nighttime prayers as a couple have included a request for restful sleep for us all.  Without a good night’s rest it becomes much harder to function and face the challenges of the day.
   Those who know me are aware that my husband is not an expert in sleep research.  However, there are studies to back up his assertion about the effects of sleep deprivation on children.  They definitely extend beyond discipline issues.
   According to the authors of Nurture Shock (2010)[1], children are especially affected by lack of sleep.  They state:
  • Many children stay up much later than they should because of  too many evening activities, homework, lax bed times, technology in bedrooms and parental guilt over not spending time with their children.
  • In a study by the University of Virginia Grade 6 students who had one less hour of sleep than their peers scored the same as 4th graders on standardized tests.
  • Sleep helps children learn and put that learning into their long-term memories.
  • Sleep deprived individuals (including adults) have greater difficulty recalling pleasant memories but recall negative experiences with clarity.
  • Lack of sleep is the main cause of childhood obesity.  Sleep loss triggers a hormone that signals hunger; therefore, tired children eat more.  As well, sleep deprivation elevates a stress hormone, which stimulates the body to turn energy into fat.
   As we adapt to school routines again, part of our homework as parents is to make sure we help our children get enough sleep.  According to the Sleep Foundation, these are the guidelines for children's sleep requirements:
1-3 years old: 12-14 hours per day
3-5 years old: 11-13 hours per day/night
5-12 years old: 10-11 hours per night

[1] This book was written by Po Bronsen and Ashley Merryman.  It deals with several myths affecting parents and their children.

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