Over the last two weeks we’ve discussed the idea that “No” is not a four letter word. This is a concept presented in a new book by Dr. David Walsh that explains the benefits to our children if we do not always say yes to our children’s wants and demands.
One area that I want to touch on that directly relates to this subject is the issue of sleep. I would suggest to parents that they consider saying no to late nights and going to bed any time the child wants. The scientific research points to the vital role sleep plays for students:
- Sleep deprivation impairs memory and inhibits creativity making it difficult for sleep deprived students to learn. Irritability, lack of self-confidence and mood swings are often common in a teen, but sleep deprivation makes it worse. Not enough sleep can endanger their immune system and make them more susceptible to illnesses. (http://www.stanford.edu/~dement/adolescent.html)
- Many studies have shown that sleep deprivation adversely affects performance and alertness. Reducing sleep by as little as one and a half hours for just one night reduces daytime alertness by about one-third. (http://my.webmd.com/content/article/62/71838.htm)
- A study by the American Medical Association found that students who got eight or less hours of sleep a night were more forgetful, had the most trouble learning new lessons, and had the most problems paying attention. “Getting them to sleep on time is as important as getting them to school on time,” said psychologist Gahan Fallone, who conducted the research at Brown Medical School. (http://www.cnn.com/2005/EDUCATION/11/11/sleepy.students.ap/index.html)
When a student does not get adequate sleep it directly influences his or her ability to function well in the classroom, makes it harder to manage stress, and can lead to emotional behaviors such as irritability, aggression, and hostility. Without some adult intervention students can literally run themselves into the ground. A bedtime or curfew will most likely not be a popular idea when first implemented (saying no will not make you popular with your kids) but the benefits of adequate sleep could make a significant impact on how well they do in school both academically and socially.
So why am I so concerned about the issue of sleep? Simply because I am amazed at how many students are not getting adequate sleep. Teachers have done some straw polls in their classrooms for me and as many as 2/3of the students (in high school) are averaging less than 5 ½ hours of sleep a night. I can definitely say that those students are dramatically diminishing their ability to learn at school.
So what about all the homework Dalat gives isn’t that part of the problem? Well first of all we do believe that we need to challenge our students academically and this can result in times of increased work outside of school. We are trying hard to find the balance between a challenging curriculum and not overwhelming the students. In regards to homework I have learned to ask a very simple question when students complain about staying up so late to get their work done, “What time did you start doing your homework?” When a student tells me he or she was up to 2:00am doing homework I then ask what time they started on the homework. The answer often is “Well, . . . about 10:00pm.”
So yes the student did have a lot of homework that night but the 2:00am bed time was not a direct result of the homework but all the other stuff done earlier in the evening. This is not always the case but as I have talked with many students over the years about late nights the majority of the time it is the result of their choices earlier in the evening not the work load that is the issue.
Establishing (or reestablishing) a set bed time will definitely be unpopular but I believe you’ll find the rewards far worth the effort and your son or daughter will reap the benefits of an alert, well-rested, healthy mind.