Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 17 Sep 2009

Our children, aged 11 and 15, donít to go to sleep until late, and seem unfit for school in the morning

Hillary's Advice

A number of readers responded curtly to this, suggesting these parents need to take charge and tell their children when to go to sleep, but it isnít that easy. These sound like responsible parents. They send their children to bed at a reasonable time, and donít let them have televisions in their rooms. They donít say whether they also ask that mobile phones be left outside the bedrooms Ė and if they donít do this, then they should. But even without technological distractions many of todayís children have trouble sleeping. Their brains are jumping from so much screen time during the day, and they often havenít had sufficient exercise to tire them out and make them want to sleep at the end of the day.
Yet we all need enough good sleep to function properly, and it isnít just our brains that are affected by the lack of it. Researchers now believe that heart problems, obesity, stress levels and digestive problems could also be linked to a disruption in hormonal cycles caused by sleep starvation. And young people, who are still growing, need much more sleep than adults.
These parents should see that their children get plenty of fresh air and exercise, eat a healthy diet, and always have some wind-down time before bed. They should make sure their childrenís bedrooms are dark and well-ventilated, and they should also talk to them about the importance of sleep and maybe do some online investigation with them about what happens when we donít get enough of it.