Volume 1 Issue 5

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Never Underestimate How Important Sleep Can Be For Your Kids By Victor Karydis Your average elementary and middle-school kid has to wake up around 6:30 to catch a bus, spends a full day in school, participates in at least one after-school activity, gets home around five and has homework to do before bed. The daily demands on teens are heightened by an even longer list of activities, increased stress and fluctuating hormone levels to boot. It's enough to make you tired just thinking about everything on our kids' plates; which is why sleep is so important for school-age kids and teens. Sleep gives cells a chance to regenerate, muscles to repair themselves, and the brain a chance to recalibrate hormone levels that affect mood, appetite and ability to focus. Sleep really impacts how well kids' brains function, from how much information they can absorb to how they perform on a test. For example, a teenager may have studied plenty to prepare for a test, but if they don't sleep well the night before, they will have a harder time accessing the information. Numerous studies have verified the link between sleep and many different facets of heath, including: • Weight. A 2008 review by University of Chicago researchers found numerous studies that found a link between short sleep durations and increased risk of obesity in children and young adults. • Academic performance. Researchers at the University of Rome found in a 2006 review of studies that the quality and quantity of sleep students get is closely related to their academic performance, and that learning ability and school performance both suffer when total sleep is reduced (and, thankfully, both rebound when the number of hours slept returns to healthy levels). • Risky behaviors. In a 2007 study, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh analyzed the results of a questionnaire given to over 1,300 Chinese adolescents (average age 14). They found that the adolescents who slept less than eight hours a night were significantly more likely to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol than those who had healthier sleep habits. • Emotional stability. A 2010 study found that adolescents whose parents let them go to bed at midnight or later had a 24 percent higher chance of being depressed and a 20 percent greater chance of having suicidal thoughts than those whose parents enforced a 10 o'clock bedtime. How Much Is Enough On average, teens need about 10 hours of sleep a night, while school-age kids need 10 to 12 hours a night. The sad truth is that very few of our kids are meeting these numbers: In a survey of 800 Kentucky high school freshmen, 48 percent reported getting eight hours or less sleep per school night. And for every hour of sleep they got per night less than eight, their chances of having an emotional or behavioral problem rose significantly. The good news was that for every hour of sleep per night they got above eight, their GPAs rose and their likelihood of having an emotional or behavioral problem dropped by 25 percent and 34 percent, respectively. As parents, we have an enormous opportunity and responsibility to educate our kids about sleep. The more we can teach them how to set the stage for ample, restful sleep when they're younger, the more they'll carry it with them into adulthood. Here are suggestions for helping your kids get the z's they so desperately need: Limit access to the electronics. One of the most important things you can do to promote healthy sleep habits is keep electronic devices out of your kids' bedrooms. That means TVs, computers, video games and cell phones. The problem with all these ubiquitous devices is that they are stimulating, and using them too close to bedtime disrupts the sleep Page 28 | Abby's Magazine -

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