The Gift of Sleep

Jeremy Sharp, PhD child development/parenting Leave a Comment

My two young children gave me a wonderful, unexpected gift this morning: the gift of sleeping in. For going on three years now, sleeping in has been a rare event. To have BOTH kids sleep late, on a day when they don’t have to be at school and I’m not already getting up early to run or head to work, is a true blessing. One that I am VERY grateful for, and one that likely will not happen again soon.

Even if they don’t sleep in that often, our kids are still pretty good sleepers. Doing the work that I do makes me especially thankful for this, given that many kids I evaluate have sleep problems. Whether it’s ramping up near bedtime, being unable to fall asleep or turn their brains off, or getting up in the middle of the night, sleep problems are very common. Many physicians and psychologists cite sleep problems as a primary cause for ADHD-like symptoms and a host of other concerns. When conducting an evaluation, I ALWAYS ask about sleep patterns. If a kid’s not sleeping well, that’s often the first thing that needs to be addressed, before making any other diagnosis.

Many parents aren’t aware of general sleep hygiene practices. Sleep hygiene includes things like:

  • Go to bed and wake up around the same time each day (no more than 30 minutes’ variation from day to day)
  • Have a predictable, consistent bedtime routine
  • Avoid caffeine after noon
  • Avoid stimulating activities just before bed (i.e., exercise, TV, video games, computers, other “screen time”)
  • And many more…here’s a great link to a sleep hygiene handout

Being a parent myself, I am well aware that putting these ideas into practice can be tough if not impossible sometimes. But hopefully the list at least gives some ideas to shoot for.

Happy sleeping!

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