Here is a first day of school photo:
Here is the same young man at the end of the day:
What do you read on his face? Grumpiness, sadness, worry?
I see exhaustion.
School taxes the brain – especially at the beginning of the school year. Children need to pay constant attention, to learn new rules and to learn new schedules. In addition, they must be reading the faces of those around them to pick up on important social cues. This doesn’t even touch on the things they have to stop themselves from doing; behaviors like running in the halls, talking loudly, interrupting.
You child expends all of this energy before math and reading classes make even more demands.
Think back to your first week of work and how everything being new and unfamiliar sapped your energy. Now remember that your child’s boss is throwing new objectives at her every day.
Your child’s brain needs energy and one important source of energy is sleep. For school age children the CDC recommends 10 hours of sleep a day. They need this sleep to refuel for the next day and to process learning. A child needing sleep not only has impaired learning, but also might need to relearn information taught the day before.
Sleep is tricky. The signs that your child is not getting enough sleep might be confusing. Research shows that inefficient sleep can cause behavior problems such as aggression and hyperactivity, academic difficulties, weight gain, and also excessive talking and difficulty falling asleep. Some of these symptoms suggest too much energy but they are the result of the body trying to stay awake.
Parents find they must make sacrifices for their children. Early bedtimes and sleep routines take away from our own evening time. Our schedules are changed and we may have less time to spend with our children. But, when we consider the consequences of lack of sleep, the need for such sacrifices become apparent.
Don't let it come to this:
Brain resources and ice cream are terrible things to waste.
Here are some suggestions to help your child get the 10 hours of sleep that will keep him healthy, happy, and learning:
1. Bedtime before 9:00pm
2. No media for 30 minutes before desired sleep time
3. Restrict caffeine consumption to early in the day
4. Be sure that your child has gotten enough exercise, but not right before bedtime
5. Set a routine and follow it consistently
6. End the day with prayer
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
(Psalm 4:8, ESV)