Friday, July 24, 2009

Does your child get enough sleep? (We know you probably don't!)

Few parents expect to get much sleep for the first year or so of their childrens' lives. In fact, once you become a parent (whether through birth, adoption, or marriage), the phrase "a good night's sleep" takes on a totally different meaning.

As our kids get older, we assume that they're getting plenty of sleep. But how much sleep do they really need? And what happens if they don't get it? I'm tackling those questions over at Child Caring.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, children age 5 to 12 need about 10 hours of sleep within a 24-hour period. (Preschoolers should get 11 to 13, toddlers need 12 to 14, and babies need even more.)

"Sleep-deprived kids are unable to learn," Cornell psychology professor James B. Maas, Ph.D., a leading sleep researcher and author of Power Sleep, points out at "Memory, concentration, communication skills as well as critical and creative thinking are all adversely affected."

A child who is not getting enough sleep may not appear to be tired. According to the National Sleep Foundation, "when sleep is poor, children won't necessarily look sleepy during the day. Sometimes they have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) symptoms: inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. They need to create a stimulating environment to keep themselves awake, because they need to stay awake to learn. They will do anything to change their environment, including displaying aggressive behavior."

What can you do about it? Start by establishing a bedtime routine at an early age. If both parents work outside the home, it can be tempting to let a little kid stay up later in order to get some play time with Daddy or Mommy but, unless your preschooler is taking a really long nap during the day, staying up late does her more harm than good.

What's the bedtime routine like at your house? Are your kids getting enough sleep?

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