A Wisconsin elementary school teacher recently shared a chart of optimal sleep times for children heading back to school. As the chart swept across the nation, it went viral and thousands chimed in with varied opinions. The chart answered the […]
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Bedtime rules for children shared by elementary school teacher goes viral, causes debate

by Jill Taylor on September 15, 2015

in Parenting

A Wisconsin elementary school teacher recently shared a chart of optimal sleep times for children heading back to school. As the chart swept across the nation, it went viral and thousands chimed in with varied opinions.

The chart answered the common question, “At what time should your child go to bed?” outlining specific bedtimes according to age and wake-up time.

The kindergarten and first grade teacher from Wilson Elementary School named Stacy Karlsen posted the chart on the school’s Facebook page captioned, “Helpful information” and has been shared nearly 400,000 times. Karlsen hoped to give the school’s parents a bit of a benchmark and told KenoshaNews she didn’t think anyone would share it at all.

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Is the chart accurate?

To weigh in on the accuracy of the chart is pediatrician Bradley R. Berg, MD, PhD, FAAP, FACPE with Baylor Scott & White Health. Dr. Berg says he is pleased that it is bringing attention to this important topic, and finds the chart accurate.

“I think the hours of sleep that a child needs at night are very accurate and that is the important part,” says Dr. Berg. “I think the chart was easy to read and utilize. Maybe it is a bit black and white, but many parents like this approach. Of course there is variation, and if the child wakes up earlier or sleeps longer than the chart indicates that’s ok, but it is a good average goal.”

What about those who feel it’s unattainable?

Some parents are irritated with this chart, commenting that it is unrealistic or simply unattainable. However, Dr. Berg says that sufficient sleep can be possible with some effort.

“I totally agree that juggling homework and activities with getting enough sleep is tough, however, in my practice for every parent who says it is not possible, there is another who is making it work,” says Dr. Berg.

For example, he suggests after you pick up your child at school, try to serve dinner before soccer practice at 6:00 instead of after, so your child can go straight to bed after practice and still be in bed by 7:30.

“It just takes creativity and many parents are not willing to make adjustments to their own schedule to make it work,” says Dr. Berg.

What happens if my child doesn’t get enough sleep?

Although some parents are rolling their eyes at the chart, without adequate sleep children will not succeed and achieve their highest potential.

“There are countless studies that show sleep deprivation is a major problem in our children and leads to behavior problems, depression, ADHD symptoms, and underachievement,” says Dr. Berg.

What does getting more sleep do for my child?

Parents may know that a child should be getting ten hours of sleep, but this chart makes it even easier, outlining the specific sleep or wake-up time. The chart is a quick way to gauge if your child is getting the recommended hours of sleep, by just glancing at the clock.

“Remember children are growing, and the growth hormone which regulates growth is secreted during sleep,” says Dr. Berg. “Memories and learning are also solidified during sleep, so children who don’t get enough sleep don’t retain the information they learned the day before as well.”

Educators commented that children are tired at school, while parents argued too much homework is being sent home. With busy schedules, families only have a few hours together at night to balance everything that needs to be done.

How can I improve our family’s sleep schedule?

If you find the sleep chart a lofty goal, consider these three recommendations from Dr. Berg:

  • Parents need to be flexible with their own schedules for children to have extra-curricular time without neglecting sleep. This may mean planning ahead meals, coordinating carpools, or arranging work responsibilities accordingly.
  • Families need to have a good evening routine regardless of the day of the week including bed at a specific time. If you vary the bedtime depending on homework or sports, then Dr. Berg says the child is likely to have a harder time falling and staying asleep.
  • Let children rest on weekends, making sure they still go to bed at the set time but letting them sleep in. Many families pack as much as they can into the weekends, resulting in no down time. This time to rest is just as important to children as to adults.

With so many opinions surrounding sleep, it’s important for parents and providers to support each other. Remember, parents should always ask their providers about things like this they see on the internet as many are not reliable or accurate.

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