Memorial Day Weekend Sleep Diary
Use vacations and weekends to find out how much sleep your child really needs.
As the parent of a five-week-old, I'm intimately acquainted with sleep deprivation. This morning, I sifted through my handbag for a house key several times before realizing I was holding the key already--in the same hand I had used to search for it.
Your child may not have a newborn (unless it's an egg or flour baby for health class), but he or she probably misses out on sleep for another reason. Maybe TV. Or text messaging. Or late-night homework. And your child may not have keys to lose, but he can just as easily misplace something significant. It might be homework. Or notes. Or academic information that he would otherwise retain.
According to the National Sleep Foundation... [children should sleep] 11 to 13 hours for preschoolers 3 to 5; and (yes!) 10 to 11 hours for schoolchildren ages 5 to 10.... Teenagers need more sleep than adults — eight and a half to nine and a quarter hours a night....
As you've probably heard before, the consequences of sleep deprivation are grim. Among them are fatigue, inability to retain information, lower grades, obesity, and depression.
Author Jane E. Brody suggests that you track your child's sleep habits. (Or get your child to help, if "able and willing.") Compare the amount of sleep your child gets on a school night with the amount he or she gets on weekends and vacations. She suggests a three-column diary:
In one column, record lights-out time.... In a second column, record sleep latency--that is, how long it takes them to fall asleep. And in the third column, record wake-up time, noting whether arousal occurs naturally or with an alarm....
Column two seems a little tricky to me, though there's no harm in including it if you can get the data. It'll probably be most striking to see the difference in the overall number of hours your child sleep per night.
Give the sleep diary a try over Memorial Day weekend, assuming your child has the freedom to sleep late. Compare it with the amount of sleep her or she gets when school resumes next Tuesday. (I'm hoping my child sleeps for five consecutive hours by then, but your goal should probably be more ambitious.)
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