Wow, this week has been all about sleep research. I’ve been reading “Nurture Shock” by Po Bronson & Ashley Marryman and whoa, the new sleep research is startling! I also watched a Nova special on sleep, and then last night my husband and I watched an episode of Star Trek Next Generation where the whole crew suffers from sleep deprivation due to lack of REM sleep.
It’s all pretty interesting stuff, so here’s what I’ve learned so far…
1) We dream in all stages of sleep, not just REM sleep and scientists think that REM sleep dreams are specifically designed as practice to help us figure out how to handle emotionally difficult situations.
2) Children today get an hour less sleep per night than children did just 30 years ago.
3) Just 15 min. of extra sleep at night has been shown to give kids higher cognitive functioning, better test scores and better grades in school.
4) A LOT of the symptoms of both ADHD and clinical depression are identical to symptoms of long-term sleep deprivation.
5) A lack of sleep causes chemical changes in the body that may be the underlying cause of the obesity epidemic here in the US.
6) Sleep is crucial to learning and if allowed to sleep in between lessons, subjects show marked improvements in newly learned skills.
7) While adults only spend 4% of sleep in the slow wave stage of sleep, Children spend almost 40% of their sleep there.
Clearly, there’s a LOT going on regarding sleep and the optimal functioning of our amazing brain. From our own experiences we know that sleep is crucial to learning. Haven’t you ever learned something new and then gone to sleep and dreamed about it all night long? Well, the research bears out this intuitive knowledge that sleep is crucial to learning.
So, why are kids getting less sleep? Well, I have some theories. First, screen time and bright lights at night have been shown to disrupt our circadian rhythms, so kids are having a harder time falling asleep because they’ve recently been exposed to bright lights or screens. And then there’s the fact that so many working parents are working such long hours that they barely get to see their kids in the evening. So parents are keeping their kids up later so that they can have some time together during the week. And children don’t seem to be complaining. Obviously they will try to stay up as late as we will let them, not realizing the long-term consequences of sleep deprivation.
So, as conscious, aware parents, we have got to put our children’s long-term health and well-being above our momentary desire for fifteen more minutes with them at the end of a long day. Now that we have this new, proven knowledge of the importance of sleep, it’s our job to take action.
We need to reclaim the “lost hour” and boy will we be glad when we have. After taking a good hard look at the research, I’m convinced that by putting sleep first, we’ll all end up with happier, more focused, higher functioning, and better adjusted kids. And what could possibly be more important than that?
Have a restful week, Shelly