September 21, 2009 in Features

Mr. Dad: Getting enough sleep vital for kids

Armin Brott
 

Dear Mr. Dad: My 12-year-old daughter spent most of the summer at various camps and came back just before school started. While she was away she was allowed to stay up as late as she wanted. Now that she’s home she’s insisting that she’s old enough to stay up late. I’m sure that it’s unhealthy for her to get so little sleep, but I don’t know how to get her back on track. Do you have any tips for me?

A: Bottom line, your daughter couldn’t be more wrong. Sleep is important. Period. And not just for little kids. She might have spent the summer staying up late, but now that she’s back in school, it’s essential that she get back into a healthy sleep routine.

It’s not just her health, her mood, or her complexion that will take a hit if she keeps staying up late. Her grades will suffer too.

According to the National Sleep Foundation some 25 percent of students fall asleep in class.

Fortunately, it’s not too late to remedy the situation, but before you get started, take a close look at your own sleep habits.

Are you and your spouse setting a good example for your child? Getting your child back on track to a good night’s sleep is a gradual process.

•As hard as it might be, reduce media-related activities, computer games, texting, chatting, IMing, and so on, at least an hour before bedtime.

•Make sure she turns off her phone and computer at night. A recent study conducted in Belgium found that late night texting and e-mailing is affecting the sleep cycles of 44 percent of Belgian 16-year-olds.

•Turn down the lights everywhere in the house an hour before turning in. Darkness (or at least dimness) signals the mind and mind to get ready for sleep.

•Just like when your child was a baby, consistency and routine are key. A regular sleep schedule is important. So even if your daughter begs you to stay up late on the weekends, getting enough sleep is a health and safety issue and, therefore, not negotiable.

•One more thing to keep in mind. School children have an added obstacle keeping them from a reasonable bed time – homework.

Help your child pace and organize herself so that she doesn’t start her work too late in the day. You might need to help her prioritize after school activities so she reaches a healthy balance that allows her to do the things she needs to do, the things she loves to do, and still get enough sleep.

Armin Brott is an Oakland, Calif.-based author of six best-selling books on fatherhood. Find resources for fathers at www.mrdad.com.


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