Saturday, March 14, 2009

Is your child getting enough sleep? Are you?

I don’t know about you but the time change to Daylight Savings kicked my rear end this weekend. You wouldn’t think losing an hour of sleep would matter but it sure did for me. This got me thinking about sleep needs of our students and it led me to an article in the New York Times by Perri Klass, M.D. published March 9, 2009.
“ “The literature really strongly suggests the average early to mid-adolescent needs 9 to 9.25 hours a night,” said Dr. Judith Owens, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University, who directs the Pediatric Sleep Disorders Clinic at Hasbro Children’s Hospital. “It’s a bell-shaped curve,” she said, with just 2.5 percent of the population needing significantly less sleep than average. “The problem,” she went on, “is that 95 percent of us think we’re in that 2.5 percent. You should assume until proven otherwise that your kid needs that much sleep.””
“As children move into middle school, Dr. Owens said, they still need plenty of sleep, but it gets harder for them to follow the schedule that the world demands.”
““Sleep needs don’t change all that dramatically from late elementary through middle school into high school,” she said. “What changes is the circadian rhythm of sleep and wake, and typically as you go into and through puberty your sleep and wake time shifts by as much as two hours. They simply can’t fall asleep as early as they did when they were 7 or 8 years old.” That is why many experts say the high school day should start later.”
“Mary Carskadon, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown and the director of chronobiology research at E. P. Bradley Hospital, says that in the sleep lab, researchers can assess a child’s sleep drive by looking at EEG recordings of the brain, and monitor circadian rhythm by testing saliva.”
““We assess the amount of melatonin that’s produced, an excellent marker of brain timing: when we see the melatonin signal turn on, that’s telling us it’s nighttime for the brain. We’ve measured that signal at different developmental stages,” she said, and “as kids are passing through puberty, we see this push for nighttime to be later.” “
“Even as we’ve come to understand more and more about the importance of sleep, for brain function and learning, for mental and physical health, the world has gotten to be a harder and harder place for a child to go to sleep. The basic advice pediatricians give to parents of young children about bedtime routines — turn off the television, take her on your lap, read a book — is important for older children, too: spend time together, wind down, turn off electronic devices, read a book.”
“Let’s face it, even if you keep the television out of the bedroom (which you should absolutely do), the nursery is now pretty fully wired in many families, and most children are aware of entertainment and communication possibilities that go on all evening long. I may have let my children stay up too late (O.K., I did let my children stay up too late), but at least I pushed hard for reading, being read to and just plain hanging out. And as we try to take account of the new research on the importance of sleep, the bedtime routine may remain every bit as important as the bedtime.”
So I hope you will make sure your student gets a good night sleep tonight. If in doubt, consult your pediatrician for specific sleep needs. Now if you’ll excuse me (Yawn!) I have to get to bed because it’s past my bedtime. Sweet dreams.

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