The Power of No: Sleep

In the last two blogs we have been discussing the idea that “no” is not a four letter word.  This is a concept presented in a book by Dr. David Walsh (No: Why Kids of All Ages Need To Hear It) that explains the benefits to our children if we do not always say yes to their wants and demands.

One area that I want to touch on that directly relates to this subject is the issue of sleep. I would suggest to parents that they consider saying no to late nights and letting their children determine their own bed time (especially older students).  The scientific research points to the vital role sleep plays for students:

  • Sleep deprivation impairs memory and inhibits creativity making it difficult for sleep deprived students to learn. Irritability, lack of self-confidence and mood swings are often common in a teen, but sleep deprivation makes it worse. Not enough sleep can endanger their immune system and make them more susceptible to illnesses. (Stanford Sleep Book)
  • Many studies have shown that sleep deprivation adversely affects performance and alertness. Reducing sleep by as little as one and a half hours for just one night reduces daytime alertness by about one-third. (Sleep Habits)
  • A study by the American Medical Association found that students who got eight or less hours of sleep a night were more forgetful, had the most trouble learning new lessons, and had the most problems paying attention. “Getting them to sleep on time is as important as getting them to school on time,” said psychologist Gahan Fallone, who conducted the research at Brown Medical School. (China Daily news article)

When a student does not get adequate sleep it directly influences his or her ability to function well in the classroom, makes it harder to manage stress, and can lead to emotional behaviors such as irritability, aggression, and hostility. Without some adult intervention students can literally run themselves into the ground. A bedtime or curfew will most likely not be a popular idea when first implemented (saying no will not make you popular with your kids) but the benefits of adequate sleep could make a significant impact on how well they do in school both academically and socially.

So why am I so concerned about the issue of sleep?  Simply because I am amazed at how many students are not getting adequate sleep. I asked my teachers to do some straw polls in their classrooms for me and as many as 2/3 of the students (in high school) are averaging less than 5 hours of sleep a night. I can definitely say that those students are dramatically diminishing their ability to learn at school.

Establishing (or reestablishing) a set bed time will definitely be unpopular but I believe parents (and the schools they attend) will find the rewards far worth the effort and your son or daughter will reap the benefits of an alert, well-rested, healthy mind in school.

Karl Steinkamp
Blog #52
Day 82

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