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Sleep is Key to Decline in Learning Issues, Obesity and Behavioral Problems

Posted by on Sep 10, 2013 in Sleep | 1 comment

Sleep is Key to Decline in Learning Issues, Obesity and Behavioral Problems


We all know that children need to sleep, and most of us might agree that the combination of children and sleep often results in stress for adults.  We think of the baby years as being a time of parental sleep deprivation and many of us may heave a sigh of relief after having passed through those baby years and finally having more consistent sleep patterns as children reach school age.

What we adults may not be aware of is the fact that many of our children are currently sleep deprived.  What?  CHILDREN? Sleep deprived?  Is that even possible? (One may wonder…)

I believe that many children today are chronically sleep deprived, and that we can make a significant difference in our children’s overall health and wellbeing by awarding them more TIME to sleep each night.

Children need sleep, but exactly how much to they need?  According to WebMD:

1-3 Years Old: 12 – 14 hours per day

3-6 Years Old: 10 – 12 hours per day

7-12 Years Old: 10 – 11 hours per day

12-18 Years Old: 8 – 9 hours per day

(I assume that day actually means a 24 hour period.)

Let’s take a look at what these numbers really mean.   If my 12 year old needs 10 hours of sleep at night and she goes to bed at 9 pm, she should sleep until at LEAST 7 am in order to have the minimum amount of sleep recommended for her age.  At my house, the children need to be out the door, dressed, fed and ready for the day at 7 am during the school year.  If I allowed her to stay up until 9 pm every evening, I would be depriving her of the sleep she needs.

In England, the official guidelines are slightly different but very specific.
2 years
  • daytime: 1.25 hours
  • night time: 11.75 hours 

4 years

  • night time: 11.5 hours

6 years

  • night time: 10.75 hours

8 years

  • night time: 10.25 hours

10 years

  • night time: 9.75 hours

12 years

  • night time: 9.25 hours

14 years

  • night time: 9 hours

16 years

  • night time: 8.5 hours

In keeping with my example above, my 12 year old could just get the required amount of sleep by going to bed at 9 and waking up at 6:15, that is, assuming that she falls asleep the moment her head hits the pillow.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends

Toddlers:  12-14 hours

Preschoolers:  11-13 hours

School-aged Children:  10-11 hours

Teens:  9 hours

Some might find these guidelines to be too rigid, and impossible to live by.  It is interesting, however, to note the consistency of the guidelines across the various sources.   Much research has been conducted on the length of sleep and the effects it has on children.
What are the effects of not getting enough sleep?
1)  Feeling tired and drowsy
2)  Lacking energy
3)  Being cranky and short tempered
These effects are immediate and are most often obvious on the first day after having a short night, or interrupted sleep.
Long term sleep deprivation might be a little harder to detect:
1)  Chronic fatigue
2)  Inability to concentrate
3)  Difficulty in remembering
4)  General irritability and moodiness
5)  Learning issues
6)  Weight gain
7)  Acne
Our brains are wired in such as way that they process the things that we learn during the day at night while we are in deep sleep.  Information that our brains absorb during waking hours are imbedded into our memories at night while we sleep.  The primary occupation of children is to learn, but if they do not get enough sleep, their learning is compromised!
If children were to get enough sleep, I believe that we could see a decline in learning disabilities, behavioral problems and obesity.
Are the children in your lives getting enough sleep?   What does your family’s sleep patterns look like?  Stay tuned tomorrow for thoughts on how to implement and maintain healthy sleep patterns for children of all ages.

One Comment

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  1. mlkropp

    Reblogged this on Nurturance and commented:
    A post I wrote two years ago for Treasuring Childhood on sleep.


  1. Five Proven Ways to Help Your Child Have a Successful School Year | Nurturance - […] 1.   Establish a set bedtime routine in order to ensure that your child gets enough sleep. Sleep deprivation…
  2. Establishing Healthy Sleep Patterns | Treasuring Childhood - […] backwards.  What time does your child need to get up?  Refer to the sleep guidelines to figure out the…

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