Addressing the Sleep Gap

10-04-2011 // Maryanne Kocis MacLeod

While teenagers are considered the most seriously, sleep-deprived group, according to the National Wildlife Federation, younger children are not far behind. Children 7-12 year olds are recommended to get 10-11 hours per night, but, in reality, they’re only getting about nine hours; 3- to 6-year-olds need 10-12 hours, but are getting less than 10.

Adding to the problem is that children are bad judges of their own need for sleep. One study reviewed in Parenting Science found that children insisted they were not sleepy — even though they had only four hours of sleep.

To begin to address the sleep gap, the NWF offers these suggestions:

  • Build outdoor time into the family mindset — think opportunistically with occasional walks to school or the bus stop, facilitate home gardening projects, walk the dog, suggest small, convenient outings. Even a short dose of nature, exercise and natural light can enhance sound sleep.
  • Be a proponent of school recess — many schools are eliminating this very important part of the school day.
  • Encourage day-care providers to build daily outdoor time into their routine.
  • Arrange to rotate with other parents as an after-school outdoor play supervisor on the block or in the neighborhood. This can eliminate fear or risk of stranger danger.

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