Surrounded as I am by moms concerned about their children, their planet and their lifestyle, it often amazes me how little concern is shown for sleep.
Sales of organic food clothing and household cleaners are rising as parents become more and more aware of the hazards of everyday toxins. Articles about phthalates in plastic and the mercury-autism connection abound but nobody’s talking about zzzzs.
As any parent can attest to, the aggressive, whiny or anti-social behavior engaged in by toddlers and preschoolers is often caused by hunger. We see it in our kids all the time. I see it in myself.
But just as often it is caused by not enough sleep. How much sleep? Well, children between 2 and 4 years of age need between 11 and 13 hours of sleep per night…how many get it?
If your household gets up at going by 7:00 AM, that means your 5 year old should be in bed by 7- 7:30 and asleep by 8:00. Your 2-year-old should be asleep by 6:00. These facts have been published in a number of different places but I ran across them again today at Ask Dr. Sears.
2 years…….. 13 hrs
4 years………. 11-12 hrs
5 years……….. 11 hrs
10 years……… 9.75 hrs
Long ago when I first started attending a Waldorf Playgroup I came across a book entitled The 7 O”Clock Bedtime and became a convert to ensuring my child gets enough sleep. It’s not that easy. I rush around in the early evening to get dinner on the table at 5:30 or 6:00. Bath comes before dinner (which necessitates an extra change of clothes since dinner too often ends up on the post bath attire.) Dinner is followed immediately by bedtime.
I have a number of friends who try to follow this sort of routine and it is a trade-off. If mom or dad doesn’t get home until 6:00, there’s no time for pre dinner play. If the arrival is later, a kiss good night may be all there is of the parent child interaction for that day. It is a trade-off. I choose getting enough sleep.
If either of us gets home after 6:00 dinner is already started. Yes, emotionally it’s better for children to enjoy a family dinner but, without enough sleep children focus less in school have a harder time with impulse control and can be generally crankier…you know the feeling.
So, while most parents wonder if a toddler in the midst of acting out is hungry, a product of inadequate parenting or undisciplined, I’m the one sidling over to the parent and politely asking…what time did he go to bed last night?
Image credit: Smaiksha at Flickr under Creative Commons License