April 26 2017

Principal’s Message April 26, 2017

When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.—Psalm 3:24

As adults we are so busy with work and family—with errands to run, people to see, meals to prepare, plus a myriad of other responsibilities. Sleep sometimes becomes secondary as project deadlines and other time sensitive things require our attention. However, sleep is as important as food and safety. It has a huge influence on health especially in the develop-ment of children. When it comes to sleep, amount and quality is the key. Sadly, Hong Kong children often have less than the optimal amount. It is surprising to see just how many hours of sleep children need.

How does your child measure up? Stop and calculate the number of hours your child has on an average night. Ready for the numbers?
3-5 years old—11-13 hours 6-13 years old—9-11 hours

That is a lot of hours but it is crucial in their development. Even as adults when we do not have enough sleep we be-come more irritable, less focused and slower in responding. How much more so for a child.

From the Harvard Medical School, studies have shown that the amount and quality of sleep have an effect on learning and memory. Learning and memory have three functions: acquisition, consolidation and recall. Acquisition happens when new knowledge is being learnt. A tired child will not be able to focus their attention which makes it harder to take in new knowledge. Secondly, the consolidation of memory happens during sleep and this is vital in helping children learn new information. The strengthening of neurons that form memory happens during sleep. So if a child is not sleeping well, that consolidation after a full day of learning at school is not happening.

Decision-making is also affected. I am sure every parent has gone through days when their child did not have enough sleep the night before and was extra difficult—ranging from being more slow and sluggish to throwing tantrums or crying as they wrestle with what is happening to their brain and body from the lack of sleep. Adults will know when they are tired and can regulate themselves, but a young child will not know and so will let their emotions get the better of them. Sound judgement would be impaired.

Quality of sleep is just as important as the amount of sleep. Quality sleep is uninterrupted sleep that allows the child to move through the stages of sleep. To ensure that children are getting enough quality sleep, ex-perts agree that TVs, laptops and other technological devices need to be switched off at least an hour before bedtime. There should be a regular and consistent bedtime routine, and the room should be dark, cool and quiet. Finally, avoid caffeine at night because it takes hours to leave the system. This includes drinks like coke, and box drinks such as lemon tea.

Putting your child to bed early has huge benefits for them, but it is also good for parents! You can have some quiet time for yourself or with your husband/wife. Or perhaps you can sleep early yourself because adults should have 7-9 hours. Whatever it may be, sleep is vital and if your child is not hitting those minimum number hours of sleep, I encourage you to try it out with your family for two weeks and I am sure that you will notice a difference.