Are your kids getting enough sleep? Probably not if they're like most American children. And the implications may be more serious than you'd imagine according to a cover story by Po Bronson in New York Magazine.
The lengthy article is well-worth the read and presents many startling scientific findings related to children and sleep. For starters, studies estimate that children between elementary school age and high school sleep an hour less each night than kids 30 years ago. An hour a night - not a big deal, right? Not according to Dr. Paul Suratt of the University of Virginia: "Sleep disorders can impair children's I.Q.'s as much as lead exposure." Suratt studied the impact of sleep problems on vocabulary test scores among elementary age students and found a 7-point difference correlated to the amount of sleep children had.
Dr. Monique LeBourgeois of Brown University found similar results in school-readiness tests taken by pre-kindergartners who were allowed to stay up later on Friday and Saturday nights, something she refers to as "weekend shift." For every hour of shift, children scored 7 fewer points on the test.
Fourth and sixth graders were instructed by Dr. Avi Sadeh of Tel Aviv University to either go to bed early or stay up late for three consecutive nights - resulting in an hour's difference in sleep between the two groups and major gaps in student performance.. "A loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development," Dr. Sadeh's results showed.
The article examines some of the underlying neurological benefits of sleep and also looks at the surprising effect on students in a few experimental cases in which schools pushed back morning start times. Finally, it wraps up by examining links between obesity and sleep (and dispelling some myths linking obesity to television viewing).
We found this article to be pretty fascinating and an important reminder to make sleep a priority in the home. What do you think? Is your family getting enough sleep?