The less sleep children get, the more likely they are to perform poorly in school, to become depressed, and to have a poor sense of self-worth, according to a study of 2,259 Illinois middle school students published in the January-February 2004 issue of Child Development.
As these kids progressed through the middle school years, if the amount of sleep dropped (as it often does), there also tended to be a further drop in grades, and self-esteem and an increase in depression. As a general rule of thumb, most middle schoolers thrive best on an average of about 9 hours of sleep. Those in high school may do well with 8 hours; those in elementary school often do better with at least 10. Younger children need even more.
Sometimes lack of sleep is seen as a badge of honor. But at any age, getting optimum sleep improves health. It also helps people feel better about themselves and about the world. And it is a simple way to improve performance at almost anything people care about.
Recent research has verified that chronic poor sleep results in daytime tiredness, difficulties with focused attention, low threshold to express negative emotion (irritability and easy frustration), and difficulty modulating impulses and emotions (Seminars in Pediatric Neurology, Mar 1996). These are the same symptoms that can earn kids the diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD, ADD).
Research in sleep laboratories has shown that some kids are mislabeled with ADD when the real problem is chronic, partial sleep deprivation. When children are identified with symptoms of ADD, often no one thinks to explore the child’s sleeping habits, and whether they might be responsible for the symptoms.
When parents of children with ADD are interviewed, they usually identify their kids as poor or restless sleepers (Journal of Pediatric Psychology, Jun 1997), and wake up more often at night than their peers (Pediatrics, Dec 1987).
As parents, we all know what it feels like to be grumpy, contrary, and “not at our best” from lack of sleep. If our kids often feel this way, we owe it to them to find solutions to this problem.
“Sleep is a vital asset for a child’s health and overall development, learning and safety,” says Richard L. Gelula, National Sleep Foundation’s chief executive officer. “Many children are not sleeping enough and many experience sleep problems. What is troublesome is that the problems start in infancy.”
Healthy sleep habits from an early age are essential to Happiness, Self-Esteem, and Success.
National Sleep Foundation