Today I found a collection of articles highlighting various consequences of poor sleep and positive outcomes of improved sleep. We so often treat sleep like the unfortunate thing we can’t avoid between the important things we really need to do. Commuting, eating, homework, working late, driving various places, errands, housework — the ongoing endless list of tasks and responsibilities we all take on make it easy to fill all 24 hours with activity. When we’re in a pinch, we almost always skimp on the side of less sleep. Maybe after you read this post, you might reconsider how your family views the importance of sleep.
This article reported a few interesting findings. Many of the kids in one particular study on adolescents reported symptoms of sleep deprivation. Young men and smokers appeared to have a higher risk of having a car accident due to their reduced alertness. Something that struck me is a statement from a neurobiologist — all the quick fixes for staying awake such as loud music, opening the window, and drinking caffeine are pretty much pointless. The only way to truly improve alertness is to pull over immediately and take a short 15-minute doze. I’ve had to do that a few times, and I remember how futile some of those quick fix methods have been on long drives. This article is already making me reconsider how I handle driving when I feel that way (or could predict it). Just imagine a young inexperienced driver trying to manage fatigue on the road.
Another article reported the prevalence of sleepy college drivers. While it’s no surprise that college kids have a more varied schedule than most high school students, it’s concerning how many of them still drive when they are like this. The article also reports two many reasons for sleepy driving — sleep restriction (not enough sleep each night) and sleep fragmentation (sleep disruption). Each of these can have causes that are medically related and causes that are more lifestyle related. Just because your kid is off to college doesn’t mean you can’t ask them a few questions about how they are sleeping. Chronic sleep problems may be undiagnosed sleep apnea or a sign that they need to cut back on their schedule a little. Even if they are almost out of the nest, your college kid can still benefit from a health check conversation like this.
And finally, some really good news to wrap it all up. This article reports that good sleep was connected with better academic performance. Kids with fewer symptoms of sleep deprivation showed better scores in various subjects. Though this may seem like common sense, I was drawn to one particular observation made by a professional involved with the study. Apparently, kids with more regular sleep schedules managed temporary sleep deficits better than kids with less regular and predictable sleep. So one night of bad sleep may look really different from one kid to the next based on their overall sleep patterns. Very interesting indeed.
I consider this good food for thought for me and my family, and I hope you see it in a similar light. As parents, it’s our job to keep watch over the things that affect our kids negatively and positively. Consider that sleep troubles can be related to both internal and external problems. Establish an expectation of good sleep habits at an early age. No matter what, don’t take sleep deprivation lightly. Good sleep is the foundation of a good day for everyone.