Lack of Sleep?
Cat amongst the pigeons time. How much sleep do your kids need? What are the benefits of good sleep and what are the side effects of lack of sleep? What relationship does sleep have to the ability to concentrate? All of this and a bucket full of ADHD. What a recipe. (Image taken from a BBC webzine article here)
Let me begin with a disclaimer. I am not an expert in the fields of sleep, sleep deprivation, ADHD etc etc. Neither, according to the feature picture, is my daughter getting enough sleep. This concerns me but I will make my excuses later.
First up, an interesting article from the New York Times which asks whether attention problems are sleep related. Read the article here. The article claims that sleep deprived children “…often become wired, moody and obstinate; they may have trouble focusing, sitting still and getting along with peers”. It continues to make a relationship (based on research) between sleep disorders and ADHD concluding that “The children were significantly less likely than untreated children with sleep-disordered breathing to be given an A.D.H.D. diagnosis in the ensuing months and years.”
Part of the ADHD explosion is due to the inability to say no, according to an article on the Psychology Today website here. The article compares the French and American definitions, treatments and preventative measure pertaining to ADHD. It’s well worth the read because it reminds us that our actions or inactions as parents affect our children in so many ways. What is interesting is that the French define ADHD as a social disorder and America defines it as a clinical disorder. The French treat with counselling and therapy, America with chemicals. The article relates the ability to self-control with the lower percentages of ADHD, but we mustn’t ignore the fact when comparing numbers of ADHD diagnoses that the French have a much smaller scope for defining ADHD.
I found myself in disagreement with a researcher on another website (Linkedin’s Childhood Bilingualism group) who is researching the possible relationship between ADHD and a preference for second language usage. I have never been a fan of ADHD as a classification of behaviour, or as an excuse (but like I say I’m no expert) and tend towards the French model. She wrote “…ADHD has been linked with distinctive changes in the prefrontal cortex, particularly in the right inferior frontal cortex, which also houses Broca’s and Wernike’s area. This area of the brain has been identified as responsible for response inhibition, motor control, and other executive functions. Research has also indicated that, in terms of bilingualism, this is the area of the brain where language switching takes place.” She very kindly shared her reading list and I will have a go once I get a little free time (ha ha).
Finally, the BBC article whose picture I used. If you missed the link at the beginning then here it is. One expert is quoted as saying “Children in particular are affected by sleep deprivation,” says Mr Dijk. “At that stage in life we accept how the lack of sleep has an impact on behaviour and mood.” How the prevailing mood is interpreted would seem to depend on where you live, but I think we can all agree that sleep deprived people (young or old) just don’t concentrate as well.
In our little family, the morning practice has become the bedrock of my daughter’s English education. We don’t have much time to play with, so we need to use it well. Sadly, she spends more time at nursery than with her family. It has been that way since she was two. She gets picked up at 6pm. After dinner she plays for a little, takes a bath, watches one short TV program, has a story and goes to bed at 9pm. It’s later than I would like but still earlier than many of her peers (an interesting piece of research here on sleeping habits in young children in Japan states “The prevalence of bedtime resistance was described to increase in the first 5 years of life from 14% during infancy to 50% at 5 years of age”. This may not be limited to Japan, but it is very common for parents in my host country to let the kids stay up late) I really need my daughter to be receptive to noticing and learning new things in the morning. To do this I believe she needs a good night’s sleep.
I would be very interested to hear how much sleep your little ones are getting and whether you reach the same conclusions I have done about the adverse relationship between lack of sleep and the ability to concentrate. Make your mark on the poll below or leave a comment.