Thursday, 27 January 2011
My husband recently forwarded me an article from the Wall Street Journal, giving me another reason to be grateful for my choice to sleep train my kids when they were infants. Of course, when back in the day, my motivation was more about the fact that if I didn't get sleep, there could be an incident that warranted my children being forcibly removed from my care.
I love my sleep and, when interrupted, suffice it to say that I am not the most pleasant person to be around. Having a new baby that didn't sleep through the night could have been disaster for me.
The article entitled, "Grown Up Problems Start at Bedtime" by Andrea Peterson, touts that kids who don't sleep enough are at a greater risk for anxiety and depression as adults. That caught my attention. But, more than that, it's not only infant sleeping habits, but sleeping habits throughout their childhood years, even through teenagedom.
Don't stress though. This article is talking about kids with chronic sleep problems, not just the occasional I-don't-want-to-go-to-bed routine. For instance, children who persistently have trouble falling or staying asleep and those who don't get enough nighttime sleep.
Some studies show that:
- Kids who had sleep problems at "12 to 14 years old were more than two times as likely to have suicidal thoughts at ages 15 to 17 as those who didn't have sleep problems at the younger age".
- "Children whose mothers reported that they were overtired when 3 to 8 years old were 2.8 times as likely to binge drink when they were 18 to 20 years old."
- "46% of those who were considered to have a persistent sleep difficulty at age 9 had an anxiety disorder at age 21 or 26." (compared to 33% of those who didn't have difficulty sleeping)
Lest this worry you, the studies were taken from a relatively small sampling of children and scientists caution that general research on this subject is still in its early stages.
So, how much sleep SHOULD our kids be getting? According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine its:
- Infants: 14 to 15 hours
- Toddlers: 12 to 14 hours
- Preschoolers: 11 to 13 hours
- School-age kids: 10 to 11 hours
- Teenagers: 9 to 10 hours
- 13% of school-age children have difficulty falling asleep at bedtime
- 26% of preschoolers seem sleepy or overtired during the day at least a few days a week
- About 45% of adolescents ages 11 to 17 get less than eight hours of sleep a night
- More than one-quarter of high-school kids fall asleep in school at least once a week
Though the research is still in progress, we, as parents are quite aware that, when our own kids don't get enough sleep, they are NOT fun to deal with. So, what are some ways we can help address sleep issues? The article gave a few helpful suggestions:
- Set a regular bedtime and wake time, even on weekends.
- Make the bedroom a dark and quiet oasis for sleep. No homework in bed.
- Create a calming bedtime routine. For younger kids: a bath and story. For older kids: Reading or listening to mellow music.
- Limit caffeine consumption, especially after 4 p.m.
- Ban technology (TV, Web surfing, texting) in the half hour before bed. The activities are stimulating. The light from a computer can interfere with the production of the sleep-promoting hormone, melatonin.
- Don't send kids to bed as punishment or allow them to stay up late as a reward for good behavior. This delivers a negative message about sleep.
- Help kids review happy moments from the day. Have them imagine a TV with a 'savoring channel.' Relegate anxious thoughts to 'a worry channel.'
Some of these are things that I know and practice already. Others, like the fact that texting and computer activity before bedtime are stimulating, hadn't entered my mind, but are really food for thought. Honestly, these recommendations don't sound too difficult to accomplish (minus the teenage protest factor). In fact, I think I might even try them on myself!
Have your kids had chronic problems with sleep? Have you had success in combating these issues? What methods did you use? Did you find the suggestions in the article helpful? Or did it just add to your frustration?