Wednesday, February 20, 2013


' "Sleep deprivation negatively impacts our mood, our ability to focus, and our ability to access higher-level cognitive functions," say Dr Stuart Quan and Dr Russell Sanna, from Harvard Medical School's Division of Sleep Medicine.
"The combination of these factors is what we generally refer to as mental performance."
They also point out that lack of sleep was a "significant factor" in the Exxon Valdez wreck, the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle, and the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. ....
And lack of sleep can have a significant effect on our inner lives as well. The Great British Sleep Survey found last year that poor sleepers are seven times morelikely to feel helpless and five times more likely to feel alone - consequences that can affect everything from our relationships to our productivity.'
THE POWER OF SLEEP: Arianna Huffington. Life & Style. New Zealand Herald News. Saturday February 16 2013. 
This article by Arianna Huffington of Huffington Press fame, is worth reading in its entirety. It appeared last weekend in our weekend Herald.
I can just hear my Mum saying her version of the opening sentence, to my sisters and myself, when we were teenagers and "burning the candle at both ends". But something has changed since then. Attitudes to sleep have shifted. Sleep was once seen as normal and essential, but it is almost put-off or postponed, given-in to only when one is exhausted or sick and must lay their head down.
"In the early nineteenth century and prior, something called the second sleep was highly valued. Second sleep, also called beauty sleep in a time when people went to bed early, refers to the early hours of the morning when one usually sleeps much more lightly. During a period of wakefulness before the second sleep, people would meditate, and take in the good, quiet things of life. Usually lasting about an hour, this was a time of day that was highly prized.
Then we invented the electric light and prolonged the daylight. People went to bed later and so-called second sleep became history. People go to bed so late now that they don't get enough sleep in general, let alone have the luxury of some beauty sleep." Thrilled to Death : Dr Archibald Hart. p 211.
We all can easily identify "Sleep deprivation's negative impact" on our children, even if we don't admit to its effect in our own lives. There's grumpiness, complaining, the inability to control one's temper, babyish or regression in behaviour, non-communication..... not that a full night's sleep totally solves these behaviours, but more sleep certainly helps.
In Hoffington's article, she quotes Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter's article in The Atlantic magazine, about high powered workers' "time macho" image, "a rentless competition to work harder, stay later, pull more allnighters...". But this is not only practiced by the professionals. It is also paraded, like evidence of 'maturity' or 'coolness' by teens and people in their twenties. Their 'occupations' during these hours, are not usually work related, but tend to be screen controlled, technology cruising or smart device multitasking. This busyness of moving from one thing to the next, could be thought of as giving one a break or a rest. But is that what is actually happening? "At the same time, change of occupation is not rest; if a man ply a machine, now with his foot, and now with his hand, the foot or the hand rests, but the man does not." Parents and Children : Charlotte Mason, p 78.
People are human, not machines, and we all need rest.
The confused picture about rest among growing children, teenagers and beyond, relegates sleep to a low priority in a day.
However, it doesn't need to stay that way. Hopefully as a parent you were rattled reading the bulk of the quote above. In a nutshell, a habit of lack of sleep leads to DISASTER.
Parents have to bring a change in how we arrange the family hours before children sleep.
Just as we understand the importance of a routine in eating - breakfast, lunch, dinner - children need a sleep routine also. Without such a routine not only will children's health, growth and emotions be affected, but a faulty pattern for life will be set up.
I am not by nature a routine person, but the more children we had I came to see we simply had to get some system for some things to actually happen. Sleep was one such thing. This is the system we devised ~
We tried to get the little kids to bed by 7:30pm - at first this was an impossible feat, but once we had the system working, subsequent kids just slotted in. If they went to bed before 7:30 it made teatime and clean up a rush, and then they woke up too early for me to regularly cope with such an early start - Mmmmmm. If they went to bed later, the following morning the kids were hard to drag out of bed. A negative attitude is a bad way to start a new day.
From age 9 on things changed ~
9years - bed at 8pm
11years - bed at 8:15pm
13years - bed at 8:45pm
15years - bed at 9:15pm
16years - bedtime became open - usually because school demands became too much to maintain a specific time. We also considered that by then we had established some order/priority for sleep, and now it was over to them. For some of our kids doing long hours of sport training into the evening, we had to literally grab the planned time to go to bed on the nights they had off.
The issue of homework controlling a child's evening is an issue for the future.
Some children get off to sleep easily while others have extreme difficulties. I think a routine of when bedtime IS, is a start in helping change this. It's a plan, so you are working towards something, rather than living totally at random. There are several things you can do preceding sleep which will also prepare a child to sleep.
 1. Slow down life 30minutes before bedtime, e.g.. 
     ~ Turn off the TV, computer.
     ~ Turn off the lights and turn on the lamps. 
     ~ Turn off challenging music and turn on music that calms or have no music at all.
     ~ Generally slow and quieten down the end of the evening.
     ~ For older children and adults, right before hopping into bed, take slow deep breaths while you slowly stretch your arms up above your head, then slowly lower them down to touch your toes, then up again... 5 times.
     ~ Finish the day off in a happy frame with each child - read a little bit from their favourite book, give them a cuddle, pray with them, massage them...
2. Have a routine of what happens at the end the day before bed, e.g..
     ~ Have a bath, take a shower, wash the face and dirty feet. Washing the body just before bed I think is a real weapon to bring on sleep - but don't make water temperature too hot.
     ~ Clean teeth, brush hair - this is another one I personally love because it relaxes me, feels like a head massage. 
These simple things cause children to anticipate bedtime and prepare for sleep.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ spend some time thinking on how you can improve your family time before the kids go to bed. Ask your kids what they would like to do just before they go to bed tonight. If their ideas are definitely not sleep inducers, then do them with the kids on the weekend instead.

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