Apparently, even "sleeping like a baby" can mean you're sleep-deprived these days.
Dr. Thomas Porter, a pediatrician with Basking Ridge Pediatrics, told a group of parents at a William Annin PTO-sponsored meeting on Wednesday morning that all ages of children and adults lack enough sleep these days, for one reason or another.
"Everyone is sleep-deprived," Porter said in a conversation following the meeting.
That even can include babies, who may be awake at times when adults or older siblings who lead such busy lives during the day want to see the family's youngest member in the evening, the doctor noted. Or, of course, babies and young children may be wakened to attend day care or for some other scheduled event or errand.
But, as most parents who are in or have been through the teenage years know, the problem gets even worse with adolescence.
At about age 12, Dr. Porter said, the internal clocks of young adolescents are reset so they want to stay up later.
Some other communities, he said, including Millburn, are looking at starting high schools a little later. Experiments with somewhat later start times for high schools in Minneapolis and Kentucky have shown a reduction in student tardiness, better grades and less depression, the pediatrician said.
The health implications also carried over into the prevention of actual injury. Dr. Porter said there was a reduction in the number of car accidents of teen drivers heading to school in the morning at those high schools with later start times.
With early morning school starts, "You are waking them (students) up in the most important REM (rapid eye movement) cycles," Porter noted.
But a change in school starting times are not likely to happen here in the near future. So, what do we do in the meanwhile?
The pain of early rising may have been felt by many (certainly in this household!) with a bit of extra sting this week, with the start of Daylight Saving time.
Not too perky myself on Sunday morning, I tried to get my 15-year-old out of bed by about 9:30 a.m. Tried, and failed. He had had a late Friday night and then went to bed his usual time on Saturday — which should have been before midnight, but because of the time change actually ended up to be after midnight.
When he finally arose, it was near the usual wakeup time on a school morning (Dr. Porter recommends trying to keep a regular schedule for good sleep), or would be if we were in the Hawaiian time zone. And this week, there's been little cheeriness at breakfast, which the kid has shown less than the usual inclination to eat.
Dr. Porter says it's not a bad thing to fall off the rails now and then with a change in sleeping hours, but odd hours shouldn't become a set pattern.
Is that what you see with your high school students, or even middle school child? And what are some of the ways to try to live with a school schedule that's out of sync with your child's sleep pattern?
For one thing, the doctor advises trying to let some light in the room in the morning, although he said children should sleep in a cool, dark setting. Coffee should be avoided, or limited, he suggested.
A very important step, he said, is to limit electronic devices in your child's bedroom. Most children have televisions in their bedrooms, studies show, that can be a distraction before bedtime, or even a temptation to turn on in the middle of the night.
And even if your student gets to bed on time, that cell phone can signal texts or other communications from their night-owl friends.
The doctor said that sleep should be considered a very important aspect of health, he said — right up there with nutrition. He also noted during his presentation that a lack of sleep can increase increase cravings for carbohydrates, as many dieters or overworked adults already know, adding to weight gain.
So, do you have a way to get your children, young or old, to obtain a sufficient amount of sleep?
Is this a problem for your kids? How does it show up in their daily lives? Would you like to see later school starts, or fewer activities scheduled before school?
Let us know in the comment section below!