With a new baby who doesn't yet sleep through the night and other little ones to care for, preventing me from "sleeping when the baby sleeps", I'm tired. And that's an understatement.
How much sleep do we really need? And what are the effects of chronic sleep deprivation?
I just finished reading a chapter in the book Nurture Shock called "The Missing Hour". It showed how children getting an hour less sleep a night than what they need contributes not only to crankiness in younger kids, but that the rebelliousness & moodiness in teenagers accepted by most as normal behavior is actually caused by lack of sleep. I was surprised to learn that child obesity was also found to correlate with lack of sleep, as well as lower school grades and test scores.
While the lower grades thing was not a surprise, the degree to which it is a factor was. Sleepy 6th graders performed two full grades lower. Like fourth graders. And obesity? Apparently not only from lack of exercise and poor diet.
I definitely believe that most of the crankiness and belligerence in young children comes from tiredness. Many parents stop insisting that their children nap simply because the child doesn't want to and seems to be able to stay awake all day without it. I think this is a big mistake. All of my children still take naps (even the 5 1/2 year old) except for the 6 1/2 year old, who rests on the couch with a book. And at times, we do insist that he naps when we can tell that he really needs it, if we know we'll be staying up later, like on the weekend.
As a parent, I'm interested in this stuff. I know both my 6 1/2 year old and my 3 1/2 year old are not getting enough sleep. I want them to have it, but getting that schedule exactly right is tough, especially when children share a bedroom.
If you want help figuring out whether your kid's getting enough sleep, the following might be helpful.
The American Academy of Pediatrics Guide to Your Child's Sleep provides some helpful guidelines regarding just how much sleep children need at different stages in their development. Keep in mind that these numbers reflect total sleep hours in a 24-hour period. So if your son still naps, you'll need to take that into account when you add up his typical sleep hours.
Between Birth-Six Months, children need 16-20 hours
Between Six-Twelve Months, children need 14-15 hours
Between Ages 1-3, children need 10-13 hours
Between Ages 3-10, children need 10-12 hours
Between Ages 11-12, children need about 10 hours
Teenagers need about 9 hours of sleep per night
SOME INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT SLEEP:
- The record for the longest period without sleep is 18 days, 21 hours, 40 minutes during a rocking chair marathon. The record holder reported hallucinations, paranoia, blurred vision, slurred speech and memory and concentration lapses.
- It's impossible to tell if someone is really awake without close medical supervision. People can take cat naps with their eyes open without even being aware of it.
- Anything less than five minutes to fall asleep at night means you're sleep deprived. The ideal is between 10 and 15 minutes, meaning you're still tired enough to sleep deeply, but not so exhausted you feel sleepy by day.
- No one knows for sure if other species dream but some do have sleep cycles similar to humans.
Elephants sleep standing up during non-REM sleep, but lie down for REM sleep.
- Scientists have not been able to explain a 1998 study showing a bright light shone on the backs of human knees can reset the brain's sleep-wake clock.
- Seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol-level of 0.05%. (by the way, 24 minus 17=7...this means that you are walking around drunk if you get 7 or less hours of sleep.)
- Diaries from the pre-electric-light Victorian era show adults slept nine to 10 hours a night with periods of rest changing with the seasons in line with sunrise and sunsets.
- Approximately one-third of your life is spent sleeping, and the length and quality of your sleep directly affects your daily performance, your mood, and your entire waking life.
I apologize for the formatting problem above. I've tried to correct it but am unable and cannot spend more time on it.
I never outgrew my nap. I have a good excuse for needing one now, but I think that when the kids are grown, I'll still be enjoying an afternoon siesta. Maybe I'll enjoy it even a little bit more.