This week psychologist, Tanya Byron, went on record to say that Britain is ‘in the midst of an unspoken public health crisis’ concerning children’s’ sleep.
She believes that parents are failing to teach their children how to get a good night’s sleep and that the ‘bad press’ they get for lack of manners, poor grades and terrible diet is down to this.
While Tanya’s words may be criticised, we welcome the subject of children’s sleep being brought into the spotlight – it certainly backs up a lot of the research we’ve undertaken over the years.
Only last year, our survey found that nine out of 10 teachers complained that pupils were so tired they were unable to pay attention in class and nearly half said lack of sleep made children unruly and badly behaved.
Other studies have also found that:
– adding just one hour of extra sleep decreases the chances of being overweight or obese by around 30%
– sleepless nights has contributed to the rise in teen depression
– up to two-thirds of children do not get enough sleep and have missed out on as much as 4,500 hours by their seventh birthday
– there is a link between lack of sleep and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) in children
– an extra hour of sleep a night can boost youngster’s alertness and brainpower
Back in 2009 we teamed up with some of Britain’s top sleep experts to call on the importance of a good night’s sleep to be taught in schools. More recently, we have been talking with Dr Andrew Mayers who heads up children’s sleep workshops in the Bournemouth area to help educate parents in the need for their children to have good, regular sleep. The Children’s Sleep Charity is also a firm believer in the cause.
There’s around two million children and young people suffering from sleep disorders in the UK and we know that sleep deprivation causes increased hyperactivity and other behavioural problems, as well as damaging their physical and mental development. Poor sleep habits from an early age can lead to long term sleep problems. Lack of sleep is also directly linked to obesity, heart disease, mental illnesses and other life threatening conditions in later life.
A lot of problems (not all) do stem from parents who are not teaching them good sleep behaviour, and are letting them stay up too late, sleep wherever they want and wake in the night for snacks and attention. Distractions in the bedroom (games machines, TVs, mobiles etc) are at the root of many sleep related problems, along with the fact parents are simply not strict enough about enforcing bedtimes.
Some parents don’t realise the full impact lack of sleep can have on their children now, and in the long term. That’s why sleep education is so important – for parents and for children – we teach our kids about eating healthy and exercising yet we don’t talk about sleep? Appalling really.
In our house the rule is ‘Bed Time is for Sleep Time’ – and we stick to it fairly religiously! And do you know what – my kids sleep well, are healthy and are bright as buttons. Coincidence? I think not.
So what do you think? Are we in a public health crisis?
It’s not too late to change your child’s sleep habits. Why not have a read of our leaflet – The Good-Night Guide for Children – here. You can also catch more from Tanya Byron on the new Bedtime Live series that starts next week – we’ll definitely be tuning in!