Science deems age-appropriate good night sleep ensures a fresh and healthy mind, improved physical health & cognitive skills, and above all a risen self-esteem. Researches do indicate that rested children contract fewer infections because restorative sleep strengthens the immune system.
Working in an India International School Sharjah, allows me to observe students ranging from ages 5 – 18, and children deprived of sleep can be easily spotted. Insufficient night’s sleep displays obvious signs of daytime sleepiness, inattention, inability to concentrate in class work and frequent school tardiness and/or absenteeism. Students who sleep less are more likely to be non-compliant and over-reactive. They appear withdrawn and anxious. Children, when getting less amount of sleep to become grouchy and at times act without thinking. They show impulse control issues and hence, in adolescents, students may display an increase in risk-taking behaviors.
Not getting enough sleep affects every aspect of a child’s well-being and functioning.
The whys and wherefores for this phenomenon could be varied, stretching from
parents’ long working hours to being glued to the gadgets.
Children are being raised in nuclear families wherein both the working parents try to catch up with the day’s chores until late night resulting in a disturbed sleeping routine.
Discipline, apt scheduling of time and learning to prioritize are the keys to follow every routine in time. Children are wet clay! It is important to inculcate good habits in them as early as possible. At the onset of puberty, physiological and social changes in children may disrupt their night sleep.
Throwing light on today’s generation, students from a young age are ‘online virtually and offline physically’. Their cup of milk is their device and smart phones are extensions of them! On average, children and adolescents spend 5 hours a day engaged on media for personal, entertainment or academic reasons. Late evening use of electronics, high level of visual & cognitive stimulation from internet surfing and texting negatively impact children’s sleep.
Additionally, academic stressors and family discord may not enforce set consistent bedtime rules.
Getting a child to go to bed is not always an easy task. Child care plan for sleep deprivation should include the entire family. Children and parents will benefit from techniques and lifestyle changes to address limit-setting problems, family dynamics of strain and busy parental work schedules. Creating hygienic and sleep conducive environment is important! Bedtime routines to be strictly laid down and followed by all family members. Introduce a wind-down time at night that involves calming activities, such as a shower and time to read a book.
Keep children away from aerated drinks and sugary food, especially after evening. Avoid high-energy activities three hours before bedtime. Strictly use the bedrooms for sleeping and not for communicating with friends, watching TV or eating. No cellphones, computers, etc. to be allowed in bedrooms. Encourage children to fall asleep independently.
During the health education or well-being classes, the schools should also educate the students and other stakeholders about the importance of adequate sleep. School meal plans should encourage more of fresh fruits and salads and reduce sugar containing foods. Our Sharjah Indian School has conducted many such programs/events to teach kids how to take care of themselves. A good night sleep is essential to improve students’ performance while promoting long-term health and safety!