Sleep: A Learned Activity — Prescribe Yourself Some Sleep Science

Sleep is a Learned Activity

THE LIST By Columbus Sleep Center | pioneer of sleep science


Before coaching a client on an organizational problem I have a responsibility to educate them on medical issues that may be associated with that common problem. It is up to them to consult with a medical profession as to whether they will benefit from medical treatment in parallel with their coaching sessions.


Sleep is a learned activity and many of our adult sleep dysfunctions begin as children. We didn’t even know they were dysfunctions. Because we don’t know any different, our childhood habits become our base-line for deciding what is normal. Which is why I’m writing today in an attempt to unveil the secrets to rejuvenating sleep. This is your opportunity to catch a glimpse of heaven, and imagine a new reality above and beyond what you have experienced up to this point.


Why can I assume that many of us are not experiencing optimum sleep potential? Because sleep science and sleep medicine have come a long way in recent years. Research has increased exponentially in my lifetime. That means much of what we know as fact today, didn’t exist in our wealth of knowledge when I was a kid developing my own patterns. And today I’m raising my own kids, and I am the greatest factor in their life to teach sleep as a learned activity.


A major contributor for irritability is lack of sleep. Other symptoms of lack of sleep in children include: poor grades, distractibility, hyperactivity, inattention, lack of motivation, nightmares, difficulty starting and completing tasks. Some of you are already thinking you know adults who display these symptoms.


Kids who don’t get enough sleep are at risk for a whole range of mental and physical woes, including some potentially serious health issues. New sleep guidelines for babies, school-age children and teens, released Monday, outline just how many hours of sleep kids need at every age in order to help them be at their best.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is lending its backing to the recommendations developed by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Here’s the lowdown on how much sleep kids need at different ages, according to a consensus group of 13 sleep medicine experts and researchers who developed the recommendations:

  • Infants 4 to 12 months – 12 to 16 hours of sleep every 24 hours (including naps).
  • Children 1 to 2 years – 11 to 14 hours of sleep every 24 hours (including naps).
  • Children 3 to 5 years – 10 to 13 hours of sleep every 24 hours (including naps).
  • Children 6 to 12 years – 9 to 12 hours of sleep every 24 hours.
  • Teens 13 to 18 years – 8 to 10 hours of sleep every 24 hours.


Before four months anything is normal as it is suggested to let the baby decide.


When kids meet the adequate number of sleep hours for their age on a regular basis, they’re likely to see benefits including better behavior, attention span, learning, memory, emotional regulation, and overall quality of life, said consensus paper author Dr. Lee Brooks, an attending pulmonologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. CBS news documented these quotes. He says not getting enough sleep is linked with more injuries, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and depression, among other health problems.


Sleep is a learned behavior. No one is just made that way and can’t help it. Your sleep pattern has been constructed by collecting good and bad habits over time.



This is a comprehensive list. You should begin by making one change, at a time until ALL of the requirements are met.

It has taken years to learn your current sleep habits; it may take a while to teach your body what healthy sleep habits feel like.


Sleep the recommended number of hours each night.

  • See the list above for the appropriate age recommendation.


Go to sleep before you are overtired.

  • Sleep is easier to achieve before signs of fatigue appear such as: irritability, yawning, weakness, clumsiness, simple decisions stump you, you’re hungry again, you cry easily.


Go to sleep and wake at the same time every day.

  • Encourage your child to go to bed and get up around the same time every day. Keep wake-up times on school days and weekends to within two hours of each other. This can help get your child’s body clock into a regular rhythm.


A bed is for sleeping.

  • Do not work or play where you want your brain to sleep. By reading in bed you are training your brain to fight sleep and stay alert in that position in that spot. Remove all toys from the bed.


Turn off all electronics.

  • Turn off electronic stimulation in your child’s bedroom at least one hour before bedtime. This includes loud music, mobile phones, computer screens and TV. Switching off mobiles can be hard for young people, but late-night phone calls and text messages can mean broken sleep. Encourage your child to connect with friends during the day instead.
  • While sleeping do not listen to music, or a sound machine. Turn off wifi and phones while sleeping.


Sleep in the dark, nap in the light.

  • Change your child’s sleep space if necessary. A dark, quiet, private space is important for good sleep. Talk with your child about how her bedroom is affecting her sleep.
  • Ensure your child feels safe at night. Praise and reward any signs of bravery if your child is fearful. Avoid scary TV shows, movies, computer games or books.
  • If your child is ‘clock watching’, encourage him to turn his clock around or move it to where he can’t see it. Buy a clock that does not light up.


Avoid naps after 6pm.

  • If your child naps during the day, make sure the nap is in the early afternoon. For children from 1 to 2 years keep it to no more than 2 hours. For children from 3 to 5 years keep it to no more than 1 hour. For children over 6 and adults daytime naps longer than 20 minutes can make it more difficult to get to sleep at night, to get into the deep sleep you need at night, and to wake up in the morning.


Get plenty of exercise.

  • Physical activity has been shown to increase the total sleep time of children during adolescence.
  • Avoid physical exercise after 6pm. It’s not a good idea to play sport or be active late at night. The stimulation and increase in body temperature can make it harder to get to sleep.


Avoid foods that alter your natural sleep rhythm.

  • Sugar, caffeine, energy drinks, peanut butter, and apples. Alcohol and drugs will also disrupt your natural rhythm.
  • Avoid after 3pm: sweets, sweet drinks, and caffeine.
  • Avoid until just before bedtime: apples, turkey.
  • Avoid entirely: alcohol, drugs, energy drinks, and foods with added energy products (Nesquick with energy boost).


Create a restful bedtime ritual.

  • Be sure to allow plenty of time (for example, 40 minutes) for your child to do wind-down activities before bed. This way, he’ll be ready to catch a ‘wave’ of sleepiness when it comes. Good wind-down activities might be warm baths, warm sleepytime herbal tea, warm milk drinks, writing in a journal, reading a book or magazine, or listening to quiet music.


Be ready to sleep; be ready to wake.

  • If your child has a busy morning routine, encourage her to use some wind-down time at night to complete morning tasks, such as getting clothes ready for the next day, making lunch or getting her school bag ready.


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