all the research cropping up lately about sleep, educators,
parents, and school boards are becoming increasingly
concerned about students' sleep habits. The latest
research is showing that sleep not only is a time
for cells and general body tissues to heal, refresh,
and repair, it is also the time when our brain maintenance
is in full swing. Sleep is the time when nerve cells
branch in our brains, hardwiring in the day's learning.
Children who are sleep deprived after learning new
information are unable to process and use that information
as well as children who are not sleep deprived.(1)
just how much sleep is enough sleep? While individual
bodies vary, there are some general rules of thumb
for sleep. We've heard for years that we need 8 hours
of sleep at night, but the truth is that the length
varies widely and the amount tends to decrease with
children need tremendous amounts of sleep not only
because they are growing, but because their brains
require a great deal of maintenance time. So how much
is enough? What you really should be doing is going
to bed at night and sleeping until your body says,
"OK, we're done here, wake up." Unfortunately most
of us override the body's own system with such things
as alarm clocks, thereby depriving ourselves of a
properly maintained brain.
average adult, 33- 45 years of age needs 7 hours of
sleep a night. This means, that if you need to wake
at 6 am, you should be sleeping by 11:00 PM. That
doesn't seem to be an impossible task for most adults.
But let's look at school-aged brains.
average high schooler needs 8.5 hours of sleep. A
middle schooler, 10 hours. Children in elementary
grades first through fourth should be getting 10.5
and preschoolers, 11 hours of sleep.(2)
Anyone overriding their brain's own maintenance department
is losing out on the opportunity to develop their
brains and their intellect to its full capacity. Because
most middle and high-schooler's bodies are running
on an "owl" day rhythm, meaning their bodies have
a tendency to stay up late at night and sleep later
in the day, it makes it nearly impossible for them
to go to bed early enough at night to get all the
sleep they need and still wake in time for school.
After all, how many middle schoolers do you know who
can go to sleep at 8:30 at night in order to be rested
for a 6:00 am wake up time?
many of America's students are sleep deprived? Ask
yourself, at your school, what percentage of students
have been woken up this morning by artificial means,
i.e.: alarm clocks, parents, siblings? That's the
percentage of students in your school who are not
getting the rest they need. A bit frightening I think.
*Binks, et.al, Sleep, 1999(May),
V. 22(3), 328-334.
*Wolfson, A. 1998. Child Development, Vol 69(4) 875-887.
*Blunden, S., et.al, 2000. Journal of Clinical &
Neuropsychology, Vol 22(5) 554-568.
* Stickgold, R., et. al. 2000. Nature Neuroscience,
Vol 3(12) 1237-1238
Huffman (1994). Psychology, 3rd Ed. John Wiley &