In preparing for your kids to go back to school, as well as getting the ’stuff’ organised, have a think about their sleeping patterns. Make sure they get enough sleep. Start now, getting them into a routine for going back to school and getting up early. Make appointments for them at 9.00!
My nana used to put all bad behaviour down to being hungry, tired or sick. I thought she was just being kind and that it was a bit simplistic. The older I get, the more I believe she was right. Parents are often surprised when I contact them about poor performance at school and ask about their childs sleeping and eating habits or health. I have seen some real improvements in both behaviour and academic performance from parents and students just focusing on getting adequate sleep and eating breakfast and lunch.
Many young people I speak to have said they only get 3 – 4 hours sleep a night. They are up all night playing games on computers, watching TV, stressing, on MSN or studying (sure!). They say they can’t get to sleep. They are too busy, have too much to do after school. They don’t want to ’sleep their lives away’. I explain to them about sleep deficit and that they really need sleep. The sleep deficit is something I have personally experienced when my children first went to school, I would drop them off and then go back to bed and sleep all day. I thought I was depressed but really, in hindsight I was just catching up on lost sleep when they were babies!
Lately in the news I have noticed lack of sleep being linked to obesity, attention deficit disorder, diabetes and accidents. The ABC Website has this amazing list of facts about sleep. There are plenty of amazing facts and I recommend you check out the list. The ones that really struck me were:
“Seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol-level of 0.05%.”
“In insomnia following bereavement, sleeping pills can disrupt grieving.”
“Teenagers need as much sleep as small children (about 10 hrs) while those over 65 need the least of all (about six hours). For the average adult aged 25-55, eight hours is considered optimal.”
It is difficult to make kids understand the need for sleep. I tell the boys that sleep is necessary to grow tall. I have a book “7 Habits for Highly Effective Teens” by Shaun Covey and in that there is the statement that you need to get a lot of sleep in a totally dark room to grow taller. Boys want to be tall so that can work. I will be able to use some of the new articles about lack of sleep leading to obesity also now. Some girls have mentioned that when they go on extreme diets they can’t sleep, because they are hungry – scary!
As to the how to get to sleep for kids who say they have trouble, I ask lots of questions about what they do. Often caffiene is the culprit, they drink a lot of coke or coffee. Their routines (or lack of) can make sleep difficult. In working with parents and students we will sometimes set boundaries around what time the TV or computer must go off, with the consequence of having it removed from use, if not adhered to. I have used essential oils with my own kids and meditation tapes. I have also not woken them up and let them deal with the consequences of being late and missing out on stuff due to not being able to wake up.
I think lack of sleep is a big problem in our society. You don’t have to look very far to find someone suffering from this. Sleeping pills seem a dangerous solution. We can’t take sleep for granted. It is a sign of something not right when you can’t sleep and it needs addressing.
I am really lucky, I have no problem currently with sleep. There have been times in my life after the loss of someone I’ve loved or periods of stress, when I have had some sleepless nights, but it has fortunately never developed into a long term or ongoing problem. I have experienced on those occasions how much lack of sleep impacts upon my effectiveness and my emotional levels. I now use a meditation soundtrack to listen to every night and it works well. There are plenty on the market. If you want to look at this in a more entertaining, yet still thoroughly informative way Craig Harper’s: Sleeping Ugly, is a great post on this topic.