The Importance of Sleep

At our most recent parent forum on technology, we discussed, as one of the many topics, the important aspect of sleep and the implications of technology to disrupt healthy sleep patterns. I’m going to attempt to compile here a set of the various resources that can help clarify the research on sleep and sleep habits. In 2013, I led a parent coffee reflecting on the book Nurture Shock and this same topic amongst others. Chapter 2 of the book was dedicated to the most recent research on sleep patterns amongst children. It found on average that children have lost almost an hour of sleep per night since about a decade ago for a variety of reasons.  Television and technology have both played a big role in this loss.

It is important to note that significant research is now building up on this topic.  At our parent forum a few weeks ago, we discussed the importance of creating a safe and electronics free sleeping environment. The bottom line is that both quality and quantity count.  Quality sleep only comes from a safe, dark, cool, and quiet environment.

Therefore, I would be in favor of the following in the home:

  • Bedrooms that are electronics free.
  • Beds specifically are electronic free zones.
  • Phones are all charged in a central location outside of bedrooms – maybe in hallway or entrance area.  On silent mode so as to not disturb.
  • Electronics are turned off and studying moves to paper based resources 45 minutes prior to an established bed time.   We can still use a pencil or pen occasionally.
  • Video games are only in common areas (Family Rooms, etc.) and never in bedroom.  You want to monitor these anyway, right??!!
  • Established bed times and positive reinforcement for making it to bed at these established times.

I’ll be the first one to note that I’m still working on this with my family.  We have our struggles occasionally and certainly more often than I prefer.  But, parents should show persistence in this area because we are building lifelong habits that will yield tremendous results for our child’s well-being.  The potential reward for holding the line on sleep is significant and will be the cornerstone of future health and happiness.  But, like all behavior, the best way to approach it is with a supportive frame of reference, filled with positive reinforcement, and through good role modeling (yes, you need sleep, too!!).

From the National Sleep Foundation:

Sleep and School-aged Children (6-13 years) 

Sleepy KidChildren aged six to 13 need 9-11 hours of sleep. At the same time, there is an increasing demand on their time from school (e.g., homework), sports and other extracurricular and social activities. In addition, school-aged children become more interested in TV, computers, the media and Internet as well as caffeine products – all of which can lead to difficulty falling asleep, nightmares and disruptions to their sleep. In particular, watching TV close to bedtime has been associated with bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep, anxiety around sleep and sleeping fewer hours.  Sleep problems and disorders are prevalent at this age. Poor or inadequate sleep can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems such as  ADHD and cognitive problems that impact on their ability to learn in school.

Sleep Tips for School-aged Children

  • Teach school-aged children about healthy sleep habits.
  • Continue to emphasize need for regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
  • Make child’s bedroom conducive to sleep – dark, cool and quiet.
  • Keep TV and computers out of the bedroom.
  • Avoid caffeine.

Additional resources you can access for more information:

Impact of technology on sleep (these are abstracts and summaries – short and not necessary to buy or download whole article):