How is She Sleeping??

Tween girl sleeping soundly with an alarm set to ring

Don’t you remember getting that question when she was a baby?

We all used to be so concerned about sleep when they were babies. We talked to the pediatrician, we talked to our friends, we talked our moms, etc. We read books about it. We tried different strategies. Getting a baby to sleep soundly was a HUGE priority. As Harvey Karp promised, it meant a happy baby and it meant a much needed break for us. 

But with older kids, do we still care as much about their sleep? I've learned that we should be more concerned than we are.

Did you know that school-age children (age 6-13) need between 9 – 11 hours of sleep each night? Much of that sleep time needs to be “slow wave sleep.” Slow wave sleep refers to the deepest phase of non-rapid eye movement a.k.a. “deep sleep.” This phase of sleep is the restorative rest that all children need.

Did you know that 6th grade students’ academic scores dropped by two grade levels when they reduced sleep for three days by half an hour per night? Yikes! 

Did you know that frequent emotional or health problems could be caused by sleep deprivation?

Our oldest daughter, age 13, is having trouble going to sleep lately. As she approaches adolescence, her internal clock or Circadian Pacemaker is shifting, which means her sleep and wake times are delayed. The production of melatonin is also delayed for adolescents making it even harder to go to sleep at an earlier hour.

Because of this, I’ve been researching good sleep habits. Here’s what I have discovered:

  • No screen time within an hour of bedtime (includes TV, phone, computer).
  • Use the bed ONLY for sleeping. (No reading in bed. Really?! I remember the pediatrician telling me this advice years ago. Note that your daughter may be OK with reading before bedtime, but if your daughter is having sleep issues like mine then the experts say reserve the bed for sleeping only. I just ordered a comfy bean bag for her to read in before bed instead.)
  • No caffeinated products 4-6 hours before bedtime (including coffee and chocolate).
  • Maintain a comfortable sleep environment with a cool, dark room.
  • Take a hot shower before bedtime.
  • Teach relaxation / breathing techniques.
  • Avoid stressful conversations before bedtime.
  • Stick to the same routine on the weekends and wake up at the same time.
  • Avoid large meals before bedtime.

For more info, read: Sleepless in America: Is Your Child Misbehaving or Missing Sleep by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.

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