Great Piece About Kids and Sleep, Thanks Rolfe!

14 10 2007

. . .and a frisky cock of the snook for it:

Using newly developed technological and statistical tools, sleep scientists have recently been able to isolate and measure the impact . . . Because children’s brains are a work-in-progress until the age of 21, and because much of that work is done while a child is asleep, this lost hour appears to have an exponential impact on children that it simply doesn’t have on adults.

The surprise is how much sleep affects academic performance and emotional stability, as well as phenomena that we assumed to be entirely unrelated, such as the international obesity epidemic and the rise of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. A few scientists theorize that sleep problems during formative years can cause permanent changes in a child’s brain structure: damage that one can’t sleep off like a hangover.

It’s even possible that many of the hallmark characteristics of being a tweener and teen—moodiness, depression, and even binge eating—are actually symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation.

which in turn led to “How to Get Kids to Sleep More” (sorry though Rolfe, no thanks for that last link to the sociopathic, syncophantic sock puppets. It should come with a warning label, like toxic substances.)

Young Son snores. I just went through all this with his ENT doctor, who found a 75% blockage in one nostril, and now he will be getting tonsils and adenoids out over Thanksgiving Week.

• 16 percent of kids snore a few times as week. As recently as 2002, the American Academy of Pediatrics opined that children’s snoring was a benign condition not warranting treatment. Just five years later, researchers now caution that kids’ snoring is not like adult snoring at all – even a little snoring is a major cause for concern, because their developing brains can be deprived of oxygen.

• Common sleep disorders such as nightmares, restless leg syndrome, and frequent night waking can have a startlingly negative impact on children’s development – from using drugs at 14 to having clinical-level anxiety as adults. Research by University of Michigan’s Dr. Ronald Chervin indicates as many as 25% of kids diagnosed with ADHD have an underlying sleep disorder causing their symptoms. If treated for their sleep disorder, the ADHD would magically disappear.

Despite the risks posed by sleep disturbance, the number of children treated for them is “vanishingly small.” Parents should consult a qualified sleep specialist – few pediatricians have expertise with sleep problems.

Waiting to see if a child grows out of a sleep problem isn’t the answer.

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14 responses

14 10 2007
Rolfe Schmidt

That is quite an about face by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Another good reason to keep questioning the experts.

I certainly understand why you want to steer clear of the sock puppets, but GL had an interesting point in the post I linked so I’ll give you a quick version here: for the last hundred thousand years or so humans have been awake on and off to tend their fires. We haven’t evolved to sleep eight hours straight every night, we’ve probably evolved to nap.

15 10 2007
JJ

I did read it last night Rolfe, because you had linked it. Let me sum up:

a) the national experts in childhood medical issues have discovered a startling new consensus on kids and sleep in the past five years, but

b) one blogger without expertise in pediatrics, parenting, education, sleep or any related areas — someone who has repeatedly demonstrated his own hidebound beliefs– proclaims human sleep unaltered in the past 100,000 years and so all the experts must be wrong, amen.

And we should put those two kids-and-sleep perspectives on equally credible footing — why? I still don’t get it.

Something in Scientific American is 99,960 years more current than the caveman-fire model of how we sleep.

I’m no expert in this area myself, but it looks as if the real experts study human adult sleep as similar to cat sleep. Yet cats don’t tend fires and never did. Also, cats spend about two-thirds of their lives asleep, deep sleep included, not exactly our quaint construct of the “cat nap” — and when they don’t get it for say, 20 days, it takes 10 days to get back to normal. Not just one nap.

And less than optimum sleep affects the heart, which is my main concern as an adult with sleep problems, and my biggest concern for my son.

This part might interest the evolutionarily-openminded:

The evolutionary evidence shows, then, that the early vertebrates slept only lightly and deep sleep came as a rather late development in animal evolution.

Curiously, however, it turns out that the opposite is true in the development of a young individual; in this case ontogeny does not follow phylogeny. In the mammals (cat or man) light sleep does not occur until the nervous system has acquired a certain amount of maturity.

A newborn kitten in its first days of life spends half of its time in the waking state and half in paradoxical sleep, going directly from one state into the other, whereas in the adult cat there is almost invariably a transitional period of light sleep.

OTOH, this is all new to me. Good and bad? Good to be spared a bunch of preconceived wrong ideas to overcome, bad because one can’t just throw a dart at a Google search page with much confidence in what turns up.

15 10 2007
JJ

NYT sleep science story, 2005.

Lots of provocative thoughts about the evolution of sleep going back tens of millions of years rather than a mere 100,000, unrelated to tending cave fires.

And I liked this “definition” part of the question:

“Sleep has attracted a tremendous amount of attention in science, but we really don’t know what sleep is,” said Steven Lima, a biologist at Indiana State.

It made me think of all we don’t actually know about “education” through schooling, yet most of us (even non-experts) are so vested in our ideas of the “right” way to do — whatever it is. 🙂

“There are no good guidelines about what is satisfactory sleep, because there is no idea of what it does,” he said. “Is seven hours of very light sleep O.K.? Or is deep sleep very important, or REM?”

He added: “It might really be that you can do with less sleep as long as it’s doing its job. That’s why it’s crucial to know what its job is.”

15 10 2007
Rolfe Schmidt

I didn’t mean to put the two perspectives on equal footing. One is clearly thorough research while the other is just something to think about. I just thought it was interesting, maybe just because it gives me an excuse to stay up late and take naps during the day.

I also find it amusing that if we accept the caveman-fire model of human sleep — where people take turns awake, and nap on and off — then we immediately find that scheduled school seems unnatural.

Whether kids should sleep in three-hour bursts or 9-hours nights in tangential, I think the important point is that systematic sleep deprivation is not good for kids, and it could cause long-term harm. Kids can’t sleep it off in one night, and even if they could it will not make up for all of the learning lost when they were tired.

15 10 2007
JJ

LOL – and we’ve never been nappers, so of course I’d take it less kindly! 😉
In fact, Favorite Daughter not being a napper was the catalyst for me not sending her to kindergarten. The orientation teacher insisted she would HAVE to nap every day, instead of enjoying a story with the first-graders in the same room.

And without knowing much about it scientifically, the psychology of family fire as experienced in my own life story is powerful. (But fires make me drowsy rather than wakeful, relaxed rather than vigilant, hmmm — and there was even a CAT in my fire essay last year! I love it when a theme comes together.)

For all of us the woodfire itself is remarkably the same, unchanged in 100 years. The power of its story is not. . .

Our firewood for the season was just delivered Saturday and there are four boxes of heart pine kindling in the garage, smelling like Christmas every time I go in or out. I’m feeling happy and I don’t even have the actual fire to tend yet! It’s still in the 80s outside, but the anticipation of change coming is feeling more real now.

Heck, I was happy just reading about Doc’s food and fire preparations for winter, without any sensory benefit. I’m easy! 🙂

The best thing about winter is food. And cozy fires. Hard to tell from this shot, but that’s about 6 cords. There’s an equal amount not yet stacked. . .

15 10 2007
Nance Confer

Yep, winter is coming. I better find that sweater. . . or not. . . 🙂

Same state, completely different experience of seasons.

Unschooling sleep story: DS has recently — completely on his 14-year-old own — decided to readjust his sleeping hours so he is awake during the day more.

I guess he missed me. 🙂

I sure missed him but this change is probably more to do with gaming schedules and Tae Kwon Do workouts. Whatever! I’ll take it.

And it just goes to show you — something good about unschooling and trusting in our children and allowing nature to take its course. . . or something. . .

Nance

15 10 2007
JJ

NPR audio program this morning with the same researcher/authors:

“Sleep Deprived Children”

15 10 2007
JJ

Nance, you’re not just correct as unschooling mom but also scientifically correct about trusting the kids, that their brains and bodies need the sleep they get and should be able to get the sleep they need — that’s how the sleep scientists define what kids need, by whatever they get when they are fully rested and unmolested. 🙂

Would that we defined learning the same way!

16 10 2007
JJ

See Liza’s Deschooling: taking the school out of homeschool” and also at Culture Kitchen my essay,”“We the Clockkeepers: Our Tyranny of Time”:

If love of money is the root of all evil, the taming of time must surely be its minion. . .

16 10 2007
JJ

Making it all up in one night? Maybe I’m sleep-deprived myself but Rolfe, the expert links you gave above say the opposite, pretty authoritatively I thought:

permanent changes in a child’s brain structure, damage that one can’t sleep off like a hangover. . .“We have an incendiary situation today” . . .a “neuroendocrine cascade” that links sleep to obesity. . . the rise of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder . . .suicide . . .sleep loss is cumulative, how easily our judgment can be fooled by sleep deprivation . . .she saw herself fall apart emotionally . . .

And this seems to be direct refutation of any “ability to make up all of your sleep deprivation in one night” or with pre- or post-deprivation naps.

So, did I sleep through some “fascinating” new scientific consensus about fixing 98% of all that human carnage with one good night’s sleep? (never mind napping in your cave by a fire like a Geico spokesmagnon caricature, living in modern culture the way dinosaurs frolic with happy human children in creation museums. Nothing natural about that!)

I see emerging expert consensus that school authorities and their unnatural demands on the human body, brain, family spirit and community, are increasingly hazardous to children and other living things . . .seems to me the research answer we need most now, is how to fix the sleep-deprived authorities who inflict their unhealthy delusions on our kids.

A tired brain perseverates—it gets stuck on a wrong answer and can’t come up with a more creative solution, repeatedly returning to the same answer it already knows is erroneous.

16 10 2007
Rolfe Schmidt

It sure seems that there is pretty good evidence that we can’t “make it all up in one night”. I know I’ve never felt like one good night of sleep left me as good as new. I’m still recovering from a sleepless spring when we had a newborn and my wife broke her leg.

But I’ve heard those statements that one night of sleep will make it all up so often, there must be something behind it. I’m sure there are some measurable quantities that recover. But there are also plenty of measurable quantities that never deteriorate with lack of sleep. So what?

I don’t know how to fix the sleep-deprived authorities, but I do hope more parents become aware that tiredness could be harming their kids, not making them stronger. Then they may start flouting the authority.

17 10 2007
More Sleep « Rolfe Schmidt

[…] Activities in Sleep (Scientific American, 1967) and Down for the Count (NYT, 2005), which JJ at Cocking a Snook pointed out. I haven’t done much digging on my own because, well, I need to get my own […]

14 07 2008
Only Brains Innocent of Sex Hormones Can Learn?? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] all ride our own hobby horses. For me it’s so obviously our Tyranny of Time — you know, SCHOOL and its associated SLEEP DEPRIVATION causing so many of our culture’s interconnected education, family, social and health […]

14 02 2012
JJ

New NPR story about kids and sleep:

So the Australians looked to see how much sleep kids do need. The answer is the biggest surprise of this study — no one really knows.

“There is almost no empirical evidence for the optimal sleep duration for children,” the authors write. Their work was published in the journal Pediatrics.

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