a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher
(While we continue to take a break, here’s LEAPAsia’s second WeChat post. We’re advocating for school children in China by posting articles on social media with advice for teachers and parents.)
Do the children/teenagers in your home or classroom get enough sleep?
In order to answer this question, we first need to answer three others.
How much sleep is enough sleep?
On the webpage for the U.S. National Institutes of Health, a chart like this one summarizes the amount of sleep needed for different age groups. You may be surprised to learn that not only the children in your home/classroom but also you their parent or teacher are not getting enough sleep.
|Age||Recommended Hours of Sleep per Day|
|preschool & kindergarten-aged children||11–12|
|primary school-aged children||at least 10|
What happens when children/teenagers don’t get enough sleep?
The UK National Health Service lists a number of problems that can result from a lack of sleep. Children may more easily become obese because they eat sugary foods in order to help them stay awake during the day. Sleep is as important for children as exercise and a healthy diet. Children who regularly don’t get enough sleep may “seem irritable and overactive, seek constant stimulation and don’t concentrate well.” Imagine what an effect this can have on their school performance and behavior both at school and home. They may be more likely to act out. In fact, children who are sleep-deprived may appear to have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
The U.S. National Sleep Foundation adds, “Poor or inadequate sleep can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems such as ADHD and cognitive problems that impact on their ability to learn in school.”
What is a sleep debt?
When children/teenagers are sleep-deprived over a period of time, they develop what is called a sleep debt. Let’s calculate the sleep debt for school children in China. A senior high school student I know tells me that he goes to bed at 11:00pm and gets up at 6:00am. According to the chart above, he’s losing at least:
Since for some children losing sleep begins in primary school, by the time teenagers graduate from high school, their total sleep debt may be well over 3,000 hours. Imagine the effects this sleep debt is having on their behavior, school performance, and overall health.
All this information about sleep and debts makes it sound like we need to change the old Chinese saying or at least make a new version of it:
So let’s return to our original question: Do the children/teenagers in your home or classroom get enough sleep? Do you? And more importantly, if your answer is “no,” what are you going to do about it?
 “How Much Sleep is Enough?,” nhlbi.nih.gov, last modified February 22, 2012.
 “How Much Sleep do Kids Need?,” nhs.uk, last modified March 30, 2015.
 “Children and Sleep,” sleepfoundation.org, accessed March 1, 2016.
 This schedule is set up by the school (where the student boards). Mandatory evening study hours (in the classroom) end at 10:00; lights out at 11:00. Then, students are actually out of bed by 5:30am. Children who live at home follow a similar schedule.
 We’re playing with words in Chinese. The original saying talks about life-long learning: 活到老学到老, As long as you live, keep learning. We’re suggesting a value for life-long sleeping: As long as you live, keep sleeping. The words for learn and sleep sound somewhat similar.