Bedtime is rarely the peaceful, connecting time with your children you always imagined it would be. Sure, sometimes it is- but a lot of the time it can feel like an all-out battle to get your kids in their beds with the lights off.
We, for starters, don’t understand why kids are so resistant to sleep: it’s all we want!
Turns out that most families are in the same boat you are, but are less successful in getting their kids the sleep they need before school. A new study that pulled from 2016-2017 data from the National Survey of Children’s Health revealed that only 47.6% of school-aged children are getting the recommended 9 hours of sleep on weeknights.
That’s less than half of our children who are getting one of the most essential things for their growth and function.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) follows the guidelines of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, which recommends children between the ages of 6-12 get between 9-12 hours a night, and teenagers ages 13-18 should get 8-10 hours.
It’s a no-brainer that sleep is essential for good health, but what researchers and pediatricians alike want the public to know is that sleep affects much more than your alertness during the day. It affects things like weight, growth, temperament, and information retention.
“Our research shows that children who get enough sleep are more likely to demonstrate measures of childhood flourishing in comparison to children with insufficient sleep,” Dr. Hoi See Tsao, author of the abstract, said in a press release about the findings, which she will present at the American Academy of Pediatrics 2019 National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans.
The survey itself asked whether children showed interest and curiosity in new things, cared about school, did their homework, completed their tasks, and stayed calm in the face of a challenge. The kids who got at least 9 hours had much better odds in all but that last category (evidencing that only half of all kids can keep calm and collected in frustrating situations). The kids who did not get the recommended hours of sleep were approximately 12% less likely to flourish in all four categories.
Notably, the biggest difference was in homework. Caregivers said 68.4% of kids who get 8 or fewer hours of sleep definitely did all required homework, while 80.2% who got 9+ ours definitely did all of it.
According to Tsao, who is a pediatrician herself, her research indicates the importance of healthcare professionals stressing how important sleep is to their child’s well-being. This will undoubtedly cover things like usage of screens and electronics, bedtime routines, and one-on-one time with caregivers.
So, while we are pretty acquainted with our own need for sleep, and how it’s the solution to so many things that can go on with us emotionally and physically, it’s even more important for the littlest members of our families. Tonight, consider tucking your kids in a little bit early. Grab a good book, read together, and turn the lights off in time for them to get the hours they need. You may see a change rather quickly.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.