How to Have Happier Bedtimes and Better Sleep

6 to 11 Years

Insufficient sleep is the most insidious sleep problem among older children. They're going to sleep later yet waking up at the same time.

A growing body of research suggests that sleep deprivation has a significant impact on school behavior and performance. "Instead of becoming quiet and somnolent, as adults do, kids become hyperactive and out of control," says David Gozal, M.D., director of the Comprehensive Sleep Medicine Center at Tulane University Hospital Clinics, in New Orleans. "Their ability to pay attention decreases, as does their ability to concentrate, solve problems, and retain what they learn."

Experts agree that parents must set limits, not only on how late school-age kids can stay up but on what they can do before bedtime. Watching TV, playing computer and video games, and surfing the Net are stimulating activities that keep kids' minds working overtime. And a full plate of after-school commitments prevents them from finishing their homework at a reasonable hour. "Families need to make sleep a priority and put it into their schedules," says sleep expert Mary Carskadon, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University. Sleep should not be a last resort after activities -- or energy -- run out.

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