Article provided by the Children´s Services Council of Broward County
Good sleep is one of those things we tend to take for granted. When we sleep well, we don’t think much about it. When we don’t sleep well, most of us complain about it but then either don’t address the problem or don’t know how to address the problem. We just hope tonight goes better.
As important as sleep is for us, it is even more important for our kids. Good sleep makes life easier. The day just goes better. Learning is easier. Test taking is easier. Friendships are more easily won and maintained.
Yet plenty of evidence shows that our kids are not getting good sleep. According to surveys, over two thirds of parents have concerns about their child’s sleep, and about half of that group report sleep problems on at least three nights per week before their child’s fourth birthday. We also know that a vast majority of adolescents are chronically sleep deprived, getting about two hours less per night than they really need. Academic and social demands are most commonly blamed.
Well, so what? Here’s why good sleep is important: Studies show that poor sleep causes problems with behavior, emotions, learning, memory, and family functioning. It even causes weight gain and mimics ADHD.
Sleep health is so important that solving sleep problems is one of our first-line interventions. It often seems to us that no one is getting enough sleep, and because we don’t value or think about sleep as a contributor to problems we face we tend to hunt for other explanations and solutions, distracting us from the real culprit. I for one like to keep things simple. When one faces a complex problem, one must simplify. Fundamentals first. Sleep health is one of those fundamentals. If you or your child is experiencing difficulty in life, go there first. And if you are unable to get it under control, seek help. It is available.
Dr. Christopher McGinnis is the director of Boys Town South Florida’s Behavioral Health Clinic in West Palm Beach, Florida. He is a licensed psychologist, Board Certified Behavior Analyst, and a founding member of the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.