Blog Post 3

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
by Marc Weissbluth, M.D.

A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain,
A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep.
(For Every Age)

“Sleep Readiness” is the title of Chapter 11 of the United States of America Department of the Army field manual (FM 7-22) that prepares young men and women to become soldiers.  It is the official document that describes how all young recruits will acquire necessary skills during the process that is sometimes referred to as basic training or “boot camp.”  Updated in 2020, it is based on empirical data using traditional scientific methods.  I have lightly edited, added emphasis, and condensed Chapter 11 in order to show you how “Sleep Readiness” can also help parents help their child sleep better.

Initially, I will post parts of Chapter 11 (Blog Posts 1 through 5) to emphasize the value of healthy sleep and then I will post specific information for parents and children based on my book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.” Please do not be put off by my book’s length; for now, only read the single, age-appropriate Chapter for your child.  Later, if you wish, read Chapters on What is Healthy Sleep, Why Healthy Sleep is Important, and Preventing Sleep problems.  Finally, if needed, read the Chapter on Sleep Solutions.

            Let’s go!

Chapter 11
Sleep Readiness
From the United States of America Department of the Army field manual (FM 7-22)


“Like the rest of the body (for example, muscles, skin, and liver), the brain has physiological needs for food, water, and oxygen-basic needs that must be met not only to ensure proper brain functioning, but to sustain life itself.  However, unlike the rest of the body, the brain has one additional physiological need: sleep.  The brain requires sleep to maintain normal function.  Sleep is necessary to sustain not only alertness, but also higher order cognitive abilities such as judgement, decision making, and situational awareness.  In short, sleep makes Soldiers [Children] better Soldiers [Children].

            The brain needs sleep to restore and repair itself, to work efficiently, to fix new memories, and to process new information appropriately.  Prioritizing sleep, and ensuring that opportunities for Soldier [Child] sleep are maximized in all operational environments [Home, School, Playground, etc.] serves to optimize brain, psychological, and immunological health.  In particular, sleeping properly before training [Learning] improves attention, understanding, and learning.  Sleeping properly after training improves the ability to both remember and appropriately utilize newly-acquired skills and information.

            Although some Soldiers [Children] may require a little more or a little less sleep, for the vast majority of Soldiers [Children] a steady diet of regular sleep is needed to sustain normal levels of brain function and health indefinitely.  Most Soldiers [Children] who regularly obtain a little less sleep every 24 hours pay a price: they unwittingly [Subjective blindness to sleepiness] but steadily accrue a significant sleep debt, characterized by increasingly suboptimal alertness, reduced mental sharpness , and an impaired ability to recover from stress [Cumulative sleep deficit].  These Soldiers [Children] typically believe that they are fine and may perform most basic duties adequately.  From an objective standpoint, their alertness and mental acuity is significantly (and invariably) impaired [Subjective blindness to sleepiness].

            Even for those who regularly obtain the generally recommended number of hours of sleep per night, more sleep can result in even better alertness and mental acuity.  In brain health and mental functioning, there is no such thing as too much sleep. Therefore, to maximize brain health and functioning in an operational environment [Home, School, Playground, etc.], Soldiers [Children] aim to maximize sleep as much as possible with the constraints of the operation [Specific family circumstances].  As sleep duration increases, so does the likelihood of mission success [School tests, Athletic competitions, Public performances, etc.].

            Insufficient sleep degrades the brain’s function.  The more sleep the brain gets, the better it functions.  The effects of inadequate sleep on brain function and performance are well-documented.

                        ·  Reduced ability to concentrate, impaired judgement, problem solving and decision making.

                        ·  Increased irritability and reduced [Negative] mood.

                        ·  Reduced motivational level.

                        ·  Increased reaction time and slower response time.

                        ·  Reduced ability to effectively cope with stress.

                        ·  Increase risk of physical injury.

                        ·  Increased time to recover from injury.

            Insufficient sleep negatively affects not only cognitive performance, but emotional and social functioning.  Adequate sleep promotes an optimistic outlook and social acuity, but failure to obtain adequate sleep on a regular basis makes a person less resilient to stress and stress-related disorders including depression.

            In short, the brain has a physiological need for sleep, and sleep promotes the ability to think and maintain mental toughness.  And the more sleep, the better.  Although obtaining ample and regular sleep generally results in the ability to sustain normal levels of alertness and performance during the daytime, obtaining even more sleep results in greater brain readiness-enhanced mental sharpness and resilience in the field.

(To be continued.)

One thought on “Blog Post 3

  1. gammyj says:

    While I had difficulty with my children’s sleep habits, they never wanted to go to sleep, I am a big advocate of sleeping well at night. When I was the head of a girls’ boarding school, we brought in members of Stanford University’s well known sleep clinic to explain how staying up all night to “study” was counter-productive. When you are sleep deprived, your short-term memory is the first to go.


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