Over the lazy summer months it was easy to slack off on bedtime rituals. I am certainly guilty of postponing my tween’s bedtime in hopes of thwarting her inevitable grumblings. Since school has started, however, I have become a drill sergeant at bedtime, barking orders of, “brush, book, and bed!”
As difficult as it is to ignore my drowsy darling’s protests as she marches toward inevitable slumber, I feel justified knowing that poor sleep is among the most definitive causes of poor academic achievements. Children’s brains are still developing until the age of 21 and much of that development is done while they sleep. Research by the National Sleep Foundation shows that children who don’t get enough sleep get lower grades and have difficulty paying attention in class. The good news is the converse is also true. Getting a good night’s sleep improves memory, grades and athletic ability. It spurs creativity and lowers stress.
One significant deterrent to sleep is electronic devices. There are a plethora of studies concluding that electronic devices negatively affect sleep. Specifically, evening exposure to bright light, inherent in most electronic media devices, delays the circadian rhythm, your body’s internal clock, and suppresses melatonin, the chemical that helps regulate your sleep patterns – a good reason to get kids out of cyberspace and get them into bed.
If you’re having a tough time convincing your tweens and teens to go to bed at a decent hour, appeal to their developing self awareness. Let them know that too little sleep wreaks havoc on appearances. When young adults miss out on valuable and regenerative sleep, their blood vessels dilate which is why they may notice puffy dark circles under their eyes. Even one late night can actually increase pimples and acne breakouts.
Sleep deprivation can also cause weight gain. Sleep-deprived people have higher levels of ghrelin – a hormone that drives appetite. According to Dr. Plamen D. Penev, an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago “If [people] are not getting enough sleep as they diet, they may have higher levels of hunger and be struggling to adhere to the regimen.”
Now that everyone is convinced of the importance of a good night’s sleep, it’s time to put our good intentions to action. Try to wind up homework, extra-curricular activities and dinner by early evening. It’s really smart to remove computers, cell phones, and video games from the bedroom when it’s time to hit the hay. Figure out bedtimes by counting backwards at least 10 hours from when the kids need to wake up. According to The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, school-aged kids need 10 to 11 hours of sleep a day.
Modeling good bedtime routines are a win for kids and parents alike. Perhaps American author and Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck said it best. “It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.
Let’s face it, getting a good night’s sleep is a no- brainer!
Contact Margaret Lavin at firstname.lastname@example.org.