Posted by Claudia Grazioso on April 4, 2012
Spring break is upon us — upon our family, anyway — and whenever a vacation rolls around I always revisit the Great Kids and Sleep Mystery. How is it that the same children who cannot lift their heavy, comatose heads from the pillow during school time are suddenly springing out of bed at the crack of dawn, ready to go go go? And they do go. All day, in fact, with nary a nap or a yawn. Yes, and these are the same kids who drag home, too exhausted to speak a coherent sentence after school. So very confusing.
Anyway, since during school vacation I relax the strict bedtimes I usually enforce, I’ve been thinking a lot about sleep. How much sleep do kids really need, and how important is it? I know it’s necessary to my mental health, but what about theirs?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, kids need quite a bit of sleep — probably more than many kids get. Babies and infants need 12 to 18 hours of sleep; toddlers up to age 3 need 12 to 14. (How luxurious does that sound?) Children from ages 3 to 5 need 11 to 13 hours of snooze time a night, and kids up to age 10 need on average 10 to 11 hours or restful sleep. What I wouldn’t give to go back to childhood so I could really appreciate all of that sleep.
But all joking aside, sleep is very important. Kids who don’t get enough time to rest their brains and recharge their batteries are at higher risk for mood disorders and depression. They are more prone to extreme behavior, have a more difficult time with paying attention and focusing and have impaired short-term memories. Lack of sleep can also impact a child’s academic performance: One study found that kids who got even under an hour less sleep than their peers had lower grades on average than their well-rested classmates. Finally, lack of sleep can adversely effect response time. That can be a big concern if we’re talking about teenagers (who need an average of 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night), especially if they are behind the wheel of a car.
So while spring break rages on in our house, our sleep patterns may be a little off, but as soon as it’s over, we are going back on our well-rested schedule.