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Is your child sleep-deprived? essential parenting ideas

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Many kids today are sleep-deprived.

A study reported in Fairfax media today, suggests that sleepiness is holding many Australian children back in the education race.

Sleep research carried out in 50 countries, involving 900,000 Year 4 aged students found that Australian kids in the study were the fifth most sleep-deprived in the world.

Anecdotal evidence supports this claim.

Most teachers I meet tell me that a significant number of their students don't get enough sleep. Disturbingly, sleepy kids hold back educational outcomes with many teachers altering their teaching to account for sleepy kids. 

The study found that 67% of students were in classrooms held back by sleepy kids.

Lack of sleep is not merely a learning issue.  It's a massive well-being issue for children. 

Mental health authorities have long identified lack of sleep as having a negative impact on children's general well-being. And as any parent can attest to, tired kids are genuinely more grisly, short-tempered, even unplesant to be around.

Okay so what can you do to make sure your child or teenager gets enough sleep- somewhere between 8 to 10 hours a night. Here are some ideas:

1. Do a lifetsyle check. Some kids are so busy  that they need to go to bed later than is healthy just to fit everything in. Have a look at their routines to see if there are activities that can be eradicated to free up some much-needed sleep time.

2. Keep regular bed-times.
This sounds obvious but your child's internal sleep clock loves routine. Set a bed-time and stick to it, and let them stay up later on weekends. (My book One Step Ahead has lots of strategies to get you kids to bed.)

3. Have a bed-time routine. A routine such as story, bath and teeth-cleaning signal psychologically it's time for sleep. These cues are important to induce sleepiness.

4. Have a wind-down time. Start winding down 45 minutes out from bedtime and remove stimuli such as TV, mobiles and other screens that keep kids awake. Limit food and caffeine intake as well close to bedtime.

5. Keep bedrooms for sleep and not for TV or other screen-viewing. Bedrooms that resemble caves are the go. If possible, homework should be done in another area of the house so  bedrooms are associated with sleep and relaxation.

6. Work with the 3 sleep cues. Make sure your child's room is dark (cue 1); lower the body temperature (cue 2) with baths or good ventilation; and stick to the sleep cycles (cue 3) of your child.

Better knowledge of the biology of sleep and of sleep patterns, as well as instigating good sleep habits, will go along way to helping kids and teens get a regular good night's sleep.  It will not only benefit their learning, but their well-being and behaviour will be impacted as well.

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