This post is part of a book review series of NutureShock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. Chapter two is “The Lost Hour.”
When I don’t get enough sleep, I tend to do things like put shaving cream in my hair while I’m showering. When Nora doesn’t get enough sleep, she gets cranky, defiant and wild eyed.
On dark winter evenings, it’s easy to put Nora to bed by 7:30. This time of year, it takes diligence. I make dinner and take Nora outside to do some gardening. Suddenly, it’s seven. Wind down time should have started a six-thirty. If we’re not reading stories by seven, she won’t be calm enough to sleep until almost nine. I can’t let her sleep much later than 5:45 in the morning, or we’ll be late for work. If bedtime is late, she gets eight and a half hours of sleep instead of nine and a half.
Since I read chapter two of NutureShock, we’ve been ratcheting bedtime back to seven-thirty where it belongs. I’ll even skip a much needed bathtime in order to get her tucked in on time. Kids today are getting an hour less sleep on average than we did as kids. It’s causing attention problems, behavior issues and even obesity (when your body is sleep deprived, it produces cortisol, which causes your body to store fat). Studies have shown that even fifteen minutes less sleep has measurable effect on academic performance. An hour less sleep will cause a six grader have the test scores of a fourth grader.
The authors explain that kids sleep differently than adults:
Using newly developed technological and statistical tools, sleep scientists have recently been able to isolate and measure the impact of this single lost hour. Because children’s brains are a work in progress until the age of 21, and because much of that work is done while a child is asleep, this lost hour appears to have an exponential impact on children that it simply doesn’t have on adults…sleep problems during formative years can cause permanent changes in a child’s brain structure — damage that one that one can’t sleep off like a hangover.
Studies on sleep in teenagers have pointed out that the surly, depressed young people so common today may actually be sleep deprived, not just hormonal. High schools who have changed to later start times have seen improvements in test scores and a reduction in the number of car crashes teens are involved in. Parents report happier teens.
The evidence is absolutely overwhelming. Anything you can do to ensure your child is well rested improves your child’s quality of life — and yours, too.
On Monday, I’ll review chapter three “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race.”