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SOMEBODY NEEDS A NAP - HOW LACK OF SLEEP AFFECTS YOUR CHILD'S LEARNING
sleeping child

Last night, your child asked to stay up to watch “just one more show.” Reluctantly, you caved after their umpteenth time begging. Now, this morning, you find yourself having to drag them out of bed to get ready for school. They’re up, but barely. Pretty soon, they’re out the door headed to school. What happens when they’re sitting in class, and it’s time to learn? Will their sleep-reduced night affect their day in class?

Sleepy days. We’ve been there. Adults are slightly better (though not much) at regulating themselves and pushing through the day. Some days sleep just overpowers you, and you have no choice like I did. Read how I lost the battle to sleep, then imagine what it’s like for a developing child to try to operate normally when they’re sleep-deficient.

Back when I still teaching, several years ago, I was driving home from work around 4 o’clock or 4:30 in the evening. I remember a few minutes into my drive my eyelids feel like bricks and they start slowly closing while my head does this downward drift toward my chest like someone started singing me a lullaby. As soon as my chin hits my collarbone, instantly, my head pops up, eyes pop open. ‘I’m awake! I’m awake! I kept telling myself-more like, trying to fool myself because my little Jedi mind trick wasn’t working.

Drive. Nod. Drive. Nod. It was me against Raglan [the prescription medication I was taking to help me produce more milk for my precious ten-week-old second son].

Typically, I’m not one to race to the doctor looking for a solution (and prescription) to every ache and pain or what isn’t working right with my body. At the time, I didn’t know what else to do. With my first son, I produced milk like a dairy farmer. Supply exceeded demand. He was swimming in milk (TMI?).

I was desperate and determined to nurse my baby like I planned, for one year, just like I had with my older son.
Raglan was the answer (according to my doctor), so I thought, even if drowsiness was one of the side effects – I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I’m ten minutes into my drive now, when I stop at a red light. Suddenly, I jump, startled by the inconsiderate driver behind me who, obviously, thinks it’s rude to sleep in the middle of traffic.

I had FALLEN SLEEP.

Sleep won. I lost the fight to stay awake.

When your body is tired, when you’re running on fumes, not getting the right amount of sleep, it affects your ability to focus, remember, and think clearly.

Think about it. Think about the time you were dead tired, and you accidentally put the milk in the cabinet. Or, you were looking for your phone for five minutes and turns out, it’s been right in your hand the entire time. Or, the time you were driving on the highway and you were jolted awake when you suddenly felt your tires start to rumble and car vibrate. You realize you’re drifting over to the shoulder.

Sleep is as essential to your overall functioning as eating and exercise are to your health. Web Md reports that millions of Americans of getting by (unsuccessfully) on less than the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night. The amount of sleep varies for infants and kids. They need between ten to twelve hours.

Adequate sleep is a must to help kids (you too [first name]) learn, remember, and recall information. Not to mention how lack of sleep can affect moods and make kids ‘wired.’ I’m all too familiar with both effects. With inadequate sleep, kids are toast! It can seriously affect a child’s ability to learn and retain information. If lack of sleep continues, it can have long-term effects on their memory.

Being tired or suffering from lack of sleep affects people differently. When I was a kid, I distinctly remember getting the giggles and laughing at every single thing whenever I was exhausted. As a toddler and through five or six years old, my middle child was super wired when he was running low on sleep or it was nap time. Imagine trying to learn or read when your brain hasn’t had the opportunity to rest. It makes it tough to focus and pay attention which are critical when kids are learning or reading.

Here’s What Research Shows How Lack of Sleep Affects Kids:

  • Children space out due to the brain lapsing “into a sleep-like brainwave pattern.” When this happens, children miss out on information in class and are unlikely to respond to instruction.
  • It causes children’s brains to work more slowly, making it difficult to remember what they just read or a teacher’s lessons.
  • If children continue to lose sleep daily, over time that sleep debt accumulates, causing further disruptions to their functioning and learning.
  • In a study of 35,000 sleep deprived 5- 12-year-olds, Rebecca G. Astill of the Department of Sleep and Cognition at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience found kids who slept less performed poorly academically and also had “more behavioral issues than their well-rested peers.”
  • According to TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center, children with less sleep achieve lower in math, science, and reading than those that sleep more.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, these are the recommended sleep ranges for optimal performance:

Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range 14-17 hours each day
Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range 12-15 hours
Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range 11-14 hours
Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range 10-13 hours
School-age children (6-13): Sleep range 9-11 hours

Final Thoughts

The next time your child argues or pleads to stay up “just twenty more minutes,” resist the temptation to give in those sweet faces. Remember how valuable sleep is to their daily functioning (and your sanity) and say no. You can send them off with a kiss and a smile knowing you’re doing what’s in their best interest by ensuring they get the proper amount of sleep, so those little brains operate at their peak performance the next day.

Happy (And Much Successful) Reading – and Sleeping (- _ -) Zzz!

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