Making sure kids get enough rest is a challenge at any age, but staying on top of their sleep habits gets really tricky for parents once the tween years hit. Between homework, after-school activities, and the demands of an increasingly busy social life, it's all too easy to keep pushing bedtime back -- but just because they're in double digits doesn't mean they can get by on half the sleep!
According to the CDC, 11- and 12-year-olds still need 9 to 10 hours of sleep every night. Let's say your seventh grader needs to wake up at 6 a.m. every morning for school. In order for him to get 10 hours of sleep, that would mean he would have to go to bed at 8 p.m. every night -- and how is he going to do that when he has soccer practice until 5 p.m., plus two hours of homework (and, you know, the need to eat and shower and play the occasional video game)?
It's possible to meet those sleep requirements, but it's definitely tricky; even with the most precise planning and adhering to schedules, there are bound to be many days when families fall short.
It's a frustrating reality, especially because the consequences of sleep deprivation for kids are pretty grim. According to a study from the National Science Foundation, kids who don't get enough sleep have trouble concentrating and don't perform as well at school; they're also more likely to get sick and are at a greater risk of developing depression. Chronic sleep deprivation has also been linked to childhood obesity.
The issue of sleep deprivation for tweens and teens is a serious enough one for the American Academy of Pediatrics to release a statement in 2014 recommending that middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later in an effort to "align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty." It's a shift that would definitely have huge benefits, but until schools actually implement this change (if they do at all), what can parents do to make sure their tweens are well rested?
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Of course you can't do anything about the amount of homework your kids have, and while you can try to avoid overscheduling them, you wouldn't want to cut out their favorite extracurricular activities all for the sake of an earlier bedtime. But there are a couple of things you can do. For example, the National Sleep Foundation advises keeping TVs and computers out of kids' rooms. Now, this might be an unlikely goal to achieve in the case of tweens and teens, but you can at least nag them to shut their screens down at bedtime. You can also try limiting caffeine consumption, which can affect kids' ability and desire to fall asleep at bedtime.
At the very least, you can at least keep the goal of 9 to 10 hours in the back of your head; that way, any time the schedule allows your kid to knock off early, you can make sure it happens.
Look on the bright side: Now you know why your kid insists on sleeping until noon on Saturdays!
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