You might have been too busy trying to roust your sleeping children out of bed to read this article in New York Magazine but … it’s worth checking out. New research shows that chronically over-stimulated and under-snoozed children are suffering real, significant and possibly long-lasting negative effects on their cognitive abilities due to the simple fact that they are not clocking enough hours in dreamland. In fact, our kids today are averaging about an hour less of sleep a night than kids thirty years ago. Here’s a fact that pulled me up short: in a study of more than 7000 Minnesota high schoolers, “teens who received A’s averaged about fifteen minutes more sleep than the B students, who in turn averaged eleven more minutes than the C’s, and the C’s had ten more minutes than the D’s.” Ouch.
As a result of reading this article, I took a look at our familial sleep habits. Back in the early days of mothering, I was always a big believer in having a bedtime routine which could be neatly summed up as follows: Bath, Books, Bed. For years, the hour before bedtime was a soothing blend of warm baths, endless re-reading of whatever the current favorite book happened to be, followed by me singing a couple of songs while scratching their backs once they were tucked in bed. After that, I’d tiptoe out of the quiet and darkened room.
What does bedtime look like now? Well, Youngest simultaneously texts, IMs, talks on the phone and video chats with his innumerable friends right up to the stroke of ten. Most nights I catch Middle, in bed, the only light the glow of his computer screen, as he simultaneously talks to his girlfriend on his cell, switches up the song playing on iTunes, IMs his friends and makes minute adjustments to his Facebook profile. Mate is no better. He works his Blackberry, plays online poker and checks up on the state of the some or all of the following: the PGA, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and/or NBA. What I don’t understand is why he still takes the Sports Section to the bathroom with him in the morning. What could possibly transpired in the sporting universe in the few short hours he has been asleep? But, I digress…
In response to my being so rudely awakened to the actual state of our nighttime affairs, I have decided to take one of my many mothering stands. To be precise, this will be my two thousandth eight hundred and forty-sixth mothering stand. But who’s counting? Can you see my children rolling their eyes and groaning in the background?
Here’s the new rule: from now on, everyone in the house has to “power down” for at least the half-hour before bedtime. No TV. No computers. No phones. Of course they are gonna fight me on this; to make sure they don’t feel too powerless I plan to include music in my first list of banned electronics and then, after a suitable tussle, give it back. Though I may find it hard to pull myself away from my Google Reader (is it too much to ask that, just once, I could get that thing down to ZERO?) it will be easier for me to obey my own new rule since, well, it’s mine.
How about your house? Are your kids getting enough sleep? Are you?