Blog Post 4

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)

Promoting Healthy Sleep

            Good sleep is essential for optimal performance and readiness [Personal best].  Factors to consider when optimizing sleep duration and continuity include: the sleep environment, a pre-sleep routine, and a sleep schedule that conforms as closely as possible to the brain’s natural circadian rhythm of alertness.

SLEEP ENVIRONMENT

            Sleep duration and continuity are optimized in environments that are quiet, dark, and maintained at a comfortable ambient temperature.  Some individuals [Pre-teens and teenagers) believe that they sleep better with music or a television on, that they can sleep anywhere, and that ambient noise does not bother them.  Research clearly shows that this is not the case.  Although sleepers are not aware of it, environmental sounds cause brief arousals-a momentary partial awakening-that effectively disrupt sleep continuity and reduce the restorative value of that sleep.

PRE-SLEEP ROUTINE

            Stress is incompatible with sleep.  Pre-sleep routines [Bed-time routines and soothing to sleep] that promote winding down prior to bedtime tend to facilitate the transition to sleep.  These routines will maximize sleep duration.  Conversely, activities such as watching television, playing video games, chatting online, and similar interesting or engaging activities tend to arouse the brain and delay sleep onset.  These activities reduce the amount of sleep obtained and should be avoided during the pre-sleep wind-down period.

SLEEP SCHEDULE

            Adequate performance is best achieved by Soldiers [Children] who consistently get adequate sleep on a nighttime sleep-daytime wakefulness schedule aligned with the brain’s natural circadian rhythm of alertness [or Sleep].  Both sleep duration and sleep continuity [Consolidation] are maximized on such schedules.  However, military operations [Real life family events] are often influenced by random and unpredictable events and requirements.  Shift work [Late bedtimes or staying up late for schoolwork or social activities] is unavoidable for at least some deployed Soldiers [Pre-teens and teenagers].  The following situations commonly contribute to sleep loss and decrements in waking performance:

                        ·  Shift work.

                        ·  Social jet lag.

            SHIFT WORK

            The human brain is biologically hard-wired to be alert during the daylight hours and asleep during the nighttime and early morning hours.  Because of this, poor quality sleep results from night shift work [Late bedtimes or staying up late for schoolwork or social activities] even when Soldiers [Children] spend adequate time in bed asleep during the daytime.  Although such a schedule is unnatural for the human brain, some adaptation to an abnormal sleep schedule does occur over time, but such adaptation is never complete.  Soldiers [Children] always pay a cost in their waking performance and daytime sleep quality.

            SOCIAL JET LAG

            The tendency to stay up later and sleep in later on off-duty days [Weekends] compared to on-duty days [School days] commonly results in a phenomenon known as social jet lag.  The effect is similar to that experience by individuals who experience jet lag after travelling eastward across a couple of time zones.

(To be continued.)

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