Sleep requirements

Laura K. Silver is a trustee of the Jewish Light who writes a blog for the paper’s website (stljewishlight.com/laura).  She owns The Paper Trail of St. Louis, a financial and legal concierge service. Laura is married and the mother of two middle school age children.

By Laura K. Silver

I don’t know about you, but I need a good night’s sleep — not every once in a while, not when I can. I need one every night. Failure to get a good night’s sleep means you’ll be dealing with the cranky, irrational version of me, which — I assure you — is quite enjoyable for everyone. Just ask my husband and kids.

I’m not the only one who needs a good night’s sleep. With my daughter, the apple did not fall all that far from the tree.  A bad night for her means a much shorter fuse the following day.  She’s going to have less patience with herself, her brother, her parents and life.  Stay clear.

My son is a different species altogether. A bad night’s sleep for him means I’m dealing with the hyperactive version of my normally mellow child. Do I want to play basketball with him now? How about now? Five minutes? Is five minutes up? Ready, Mom? If it’s not basketball, he’s kicking a soccer ball throughout my house, bouncing and tossing any ball he can get his hands on, and in perpetual motion for the entire day. Mrs. Brady would go crazy.

Given these lovely scenarios, sleep is a significant priority in our house. We have set bedtimes. We have set rising times. If we don’t get quite enough, we make it up — we go to bed earlier than usual or get up later than usual or take a nap. Sleep is a number one priority. Period.

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I’ve noticed, when I interact with other kids, that sleep is just as important to them. I work with kids in a volunteer capacity and when they are having trouble focusing, I always ask them how they slept the night before. Almost without fail, I will hear a story about how they were kept up late, or woke up early or interrupted in the middle of the night. I have yet to have a child answer with, “I slept great.”   

Over time, I have become convinced that many “behavioral” problems in elementary aged kids are, in fact, merely sleep deprivation. I’m not suggesting that all of them are, but more than you’d think. If parents familiarized themselves with the number of hours of sleep actually required for kids (See: https://www.stlukes-stl.com/services/sleep-medicine/documents/pediatricsleep/children_sleep_reqmt.pdf) and made sure to give kids the best opportunity to get the required amount every night, I believe we’d see a drastic change in behavior both in and out of the classroom.

It’s a win-win for everyone, just maybe not the NBA.