In order for your kids to excel at their ABC’s, you have to make sure they’re getting enough z’s. A recent poll revealed more than 60 percent of kids age 6 – 11 don’t hit the sack until after 9 p.m.
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Jyoti Krishna, MD, who treats pediatric sleep disorders, says children in this age group should be getting about 10 hours of sleep each night — though some need a little more, some a little less.
Three ways to know
Is your kid sleeping enough? Here’s three ways to know:
- He or she sleeps late on the weekend. A child who is not sleep-deprived sleeps about the same amount of hours every night. Kids who are “catching up” on the weekends are not getting enough sleep during the week. “If your child is not getting up until 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., or noon — that tells you that there is a sleep debt that has been incurred during the working week that is being paid off during the weekend,” says Dr. Krishna.
- Your child is irritable. If a child is crabby during the week — but better on the weekends after sleeping in — that child may be sleep-deprived.
- Your child needs caffeine in the morning. If your child can’t seem to get the school day started without a caffeinated beverage, they may need to get more sleep.
How to help sleepy kids
So you think your child might need more sleep. What should you do?
A new Canadian study, appearing in the journal Pediatrics, finds that getting kids to sleep just a little earlier each night can make a big impact on their mood and performance the next day.
Researchers at the University of Quebec tracked the sleep habits of a group of 7- to 11-year-old children.
They found that children who went to bed an hour later than normal were more impulsive, irritable, and not as alert. But children who added anywhere from 27 to 60 minutes of sleep to their typical bedtimes saw a significant improvement in their behavior and performance at school.
Researchers say more than half of school-age children go to bed later than 9 p.m.
Dr. Krishna says that even 20 to 30 minutes can make a measurable difference the next morning in class.
Earlier bedtime: how to do it
Dr. Krishna says the key to enforcing earlier bedtime is to develop a regular bedtime routine and stick to it. If a child does need more sleep, Dr. Krishna says parents must do what it takes to establish an earlier bedtime.
“It’s up to you to sit down with your children and say, ‘OK, what are we going to cut off from activities at night? How are we going to get you to bed a little bit earlier?’
“Usually, the wake-up time is pretty much set in stone. It depends on when the school bus is going to be at your door. So you really cannot change that. But you can change when your child goes to bed.”
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