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Children and their Need For Sleep

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Of great concern with regard to our children is whether or not they are getting enough quality sleep. It’s a significant question in an age where both parents are working and getting home late with the result that there is no regular bedtime for many kids. This is further complicated by the fact that kids are involved in all types of after-school activities. In fact, younger kids are often sent to these activities until parents get home from work. The result is that naps are missed and many kids get to sleep at later times than ever before. The next morning starts early so that the family can get to school and work on-time. Does this have any impact on children?

Sleep is as important to children as good nutrition, drink and safety. However, when children lack adequate amounts of sleep there are serious consequences. First, establishing good bedtime habits is important do that children continue to use good sleep hygiene into adulthood. Poor sleep habits result in a children feeling fatigued the next day so that they cannot concentrate on school. Attention spans are shortened and restlessness and irritability result from sleep problems. In some children symptoms of depression show up as a result of too few hours of quality sleep. “Quality sleep is uninterrupted sleep that allows your child to move through all the different and necessary stages of sleep. The quality of sleep is as important as the quantity, playing its essential role in nervous system development.”

A recent study done by Kelly of the University of London in the UK showed that the lack sleep directly impacted on cognitive development of children ranging from age 3 to seven years. One of the major findings of the study was that regular bedtime directly affect cognitive development. In other words, consistent and regular bedtimes are essential for normal development. In particular, what was affected was reading scores and math scores, spatial reasoning scores, important for understanding math and science concepts and athletic development as well.

“Following are some observations from various studies illustrating some of the difficulties faced and the behavioral changes in children with sleep problems (from Wiessbluth’s “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and On Becoming Baby Wise,” by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, MD):

1. Children do not “outgrow” sleep problems; Sleep problems must be solved.

2. Children who sleep longer during the day have longer attention spans.

3. Small but constant deficits in sleep over time tend to have escalating and perhaps long-term effects on brain function.

4. Children with higher IQs — in every age group studied — slept longer.

5. For ADHD children, improvements in sleep dramatically improved peer relations and classroom performance.

6. Healthy sleep positively affects neurologic development and appears to be the right medicine for the prevention of many learning and behavioral problems.”

Your comments are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD


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