Doctors suggest that children between five and 12 years old should sleep for about 9.5 hours each night. Some kids need more sleep than others
If you look up in the dictionary the word ‘sleep’ is defined as ‘a naturally recurring state of mind and body, characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles, and reduced interactions with surroundings’. According to Thomas Dekker, a famous writer of the early 1600, sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together. With our eyes closed, we feel that everything else is also sleeping but that’s not the case at all. So what actually happens as we fall to sleep?
A lot! Your brain swings into action, tells your body how to sleep. As we slowly start to settle in and feel comfortable, we fall asleep and sometimes start dreaming immediately. Everyone dreams, it’s just that sometimes we remember and sometimes we don’t. Even animals dream. Have you noticed your dog’s running motion of its leg’s while sleeping? We are no exception. We too move our hands or legs in our dream. Sometimes it’s past bedtime and still we are not sleepy.
It’s Friday night and most of the channels on TV have special programs till late night. Especially during the cricket season or football season, your children are glued to the TV. You remind them that it’s past their bedtime but they really want to watch it. Then again the other day they had their exams and they were supposed to revise their work but they fell asleep right after dinner. These are just a few examples you remember. You wonder why it is that way?
Well homework or studies are too boring for your children and hence they fall asleep, but watching games and TV program, sleep is nowhere in sight. They know they should sleep but they are too engrossed in the program to go to sleep. Sometimes, even adults forget about proper sleep when caught up with deadlines that need to be met or assignments that need to be completed in time. You sleep in the wee hours of morning and wake up all groggy the next morning. As a result the day does not go well at all. Sounds familiar? How can one forget the day after feeling at work?
I know that heavy, groggy feeling is awful. When you feel that way, you’re not at your best at work. It is especially true for children. An average child has a busy day. There’s school, taking care of your pets, if you have them, or simply running around with friends, playing soccer or cricket or any other game. Some might be going to the pool for a cool swim, and of course doing homework. Now by the end of the day, their body is exhausted and they need a break. After all this, I will not be surprised if your child just curled up with a comfortable pillow and a soft blanket for a nap. It’s ok to take a nap. Sometimes children think sleeping is a waste of time. I am sure you don’t think sleeping is a waste of time. I see some parents grinning.
Actually sleep rejuvenates you. Sleep allows body to rest and be prepared for another busy day. Actually every living being needs sleep to survive. Even your dog or cat curls up for naps. Animals sleep for the same reason as we do—to give your body a tiny vacation. If you decide to explain this to your children, they will outsmart you and say, ‘but fish don’t sleep!’ Let me tell you fish do sleep. They sleep with their eyes open. Isn’t that amazing? Even fish need to rest their body after all that swimming. Yes, the body rests when we sleep but what does the brain do when we sleep?
Some scientists think the brain is busy sorting through and storing information when we sleep. The most pronounced physiological changes in sleep occur in the brain. The brain uses significantly less energy during sleep than it does in waking. It replaces chemicals, and even solves problems while you snooze. While we sleep millions of body cells are repaired and replaced, and new supply of energy is built up to enable us to face the world the next day, fresh and invigorated. Even while we are sleeping normal bodily functions like breathing and heartbeat continue. Even growth takes place. Don’t be surprised if I tell you that children actually grow while they are asleep. So how long should one sleep?’
Doctors suggest that children between five and 12 years old should sleep for about 9.5 hours each night. At the same time some experts say that children need 10 or 11 hours of sleep each night. Sleep is an individual thing and some kids need more than others. I know you want to know what happens if we don’t get enough sleep? Well, when your body doesn’t have enough hours to rest, we may feel tired or cranky, or may be unable to think clearly. We might even have a hard time following directions, or have an argument over something really stupid.
A school assignment that’s normally easy for your child, may feel impossible to finish. She may feel clumsy playing her favorite sport or instrument. This is one reason to ensure that she gets enough sleep. Researchers believe that too little sleep can affect growth and immune system. Immune system keeps children from getting sick.
Stick to the schedule
We as parents need to make sure that children keep their sleep schedule intact. For this you might have to curtail your late night social activities too, to some extent. Just understand that without sleep both your and your child’s life is going to be crazy the day after. So parents the next time your child refuses to sleep in time, tell them that their brain is telling them, ‘you go and sleep, I need to start working. If you don’t sleep it will be impossible to give directions to the rest of your body.’ You will need all your creative juices flowing to convince them. I know they will not be convinced but it’s worth a try. Right parents?
Pokharel is an educationist and author of several children’s books