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Sleepy Science

June 5, 2018


Here I am, 8 days into an 18 day stretch in which my spouse is overseas and I am the only parent responsible for three mild-mannered, well-behaved children, and I am TIRED. I have tried all manners of “tricks” to make my life easier and more manageable, mostly including lots and lots of screen time, but nonetheless, I am still tired. In one of my many attempts to figure out how to make this time period less tiring, I started looking into what kinds of bedtimes would be good for my children (ages 8.5, 6, and 3.5 years old). Maybe they are not sleeping enough, I thought, visions of a 630pm bedtime floating tantalizingly close before my eyes.


What does the science say about this? Here is a handy sleep chart for kids of all ages: https://sleepfoundation.org/excessivesleepiness/content/how-much-sleep-do-babies-and-kids-need. According to this website, my older two children should be sleeping 9 to 11 hours. That means when they go to sleep at 9:30 pm, after a half hour of negotiations and one hour of reading, they should be waking up at 6:30 am or later. Shockingly, that is pretty accurate for them, although the bedtime often creeps later than 9:30 and the wake ups can be as early as 6.


What about the preschooler? The chart says he should be sleeping 10-13 hours. He normally goes to sleep around 8:30pm (same half hour or so of bedtime negotiations), and wakes up around 6 am. So not quite 10 hours, but not too far off.

So their bedtimes are not the problem, unfortunately. What is the culprit? Probably mine. Adults need an average of 7-9 hours of sleep for optimal functioning. When the kids finally go to sleep around 930 or 10pm, I generally work at the computer until 11:30 or midnight….then up at 6 with the preschooler….is 6-6.5 hours. Not terribly off from the minimum, but probably not enough.


Does missing one hour of sleep affect my functioning? Science says unequivocally yes. Check out this website for more details: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/sleep-needs-get-the-sleep-you-need.htm.


There is a whole body of literature around proper “sleep hygiene,” how to do bedtimes, room lighting, temperature of the rooms, etc, all to get optimal sleep. As a family, we do none of this, but we probably should. Here are some websites to check out on this topic: https://www.mother.ly/child/the-science-of-sleep-what-mamas-can-do-to-help-their-childrenand-themselvesget-the-best-rest; https://www.fatherly.com/health-science/science-why-kids-need-early-bedtimes/; and http://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,2109149-3,00.html.


Happy sleeping, readers!

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