"Who brings their children out at this time of night!?"
...we have all muttered it to ourselves at some point. Glancing over at infants brought to their wits end by by the various late night outings of their parents. Now, however, it seems this trend is causing consequences far beyond the disruption of Hong Kong's dinner and cinema dates.
In an unprecedented era of activity and high stimulation (both good and bad), the average modern day child is hitting the sack later than ever according to recent studies. A study from the Caritas Youth and Community Service has shown that roughly a third of the pupils in Hong Kong lack adequate sleep and this could impair their creativity, health and mental wellbeing.
A Caritas survey found more than a third of 1,800 surveyed children slept on average for six to seven hours on a school day. The same study uncovered that 37.5 per cent also tackled an average of seven to eight pieces of homework a day.
A study of 21,000 children from around the world has shown that Hong Kong children are up the latest with an average bedtime of 10:10 p.m! The reasons for this are rooted this lie with activity overload, large homework load, long parent working hours and poor bedtime routines.
One of the most alarming findings has been the link that sleep deprivation and late bedtimes have with obesity.
The Ohio State University College of Public Health (OSUCPH) have discovered that preschoolers who are regularly tucked into bed by 8 p.m. are far less likely to become obese teenagers than young children who go to sleep later in the evening. Bedtimes after 9 p.m. appeared to double the likelihood of obesity later in life.
“For parents, this reinforces the importance of establishing a bedtime routine,” said Sarah Anderson, lead author and associate professor of epidemiology at OSCUPH.
Obesity can set kids up for a lifelong struggle with weight and health complications that can accompany it, including diabetes and heart disease. Believe it or not, a whopping 60,000 of 300,000 primary school children in Hong Kong are still considered obese and if we do not start to take the contributing factors more seriously, this number will only become more alarming.
A specialist in developmental-behavioural paediatrics, Dr. Fanny Lam, says sleep is vital for children. “Some parents have a misunderstanding that sleep time is rest time that could be cut for studying or extracurricular activities,” said Lam.
“During deep sleep, the brain is still working. It’s trying to turn short-term memory to long-term memory. When a child lacks sleep, the child’s memory can’t be consolidated.”
BEDTIME STORY FORMULA
A recent Butlins study has also exposed the awesome power of effective bedtime stories and guess what- they have even come up with a formula...
1. For the first 30 seconds, create sounds to set the scene - like a door banging (Bang!) or an owl tooting (tweet-to-wooo. Add narration in between these sounds to draw your child in and capture their interest immediately.
2. Ask your child if they can guess where the story is set and what might happen in this story. Predicting the events help children with understanding more about the story.
3. Now you can begin the story with an opening line such as ‘A long, long time ago’, ‘In a far off land…’ Say these slowly and smoothly and in your natural voice as you are narrating. Describe the characters by using words such as ‘She had luscious, long locks’ or ‘His voice was as gruff as a bear’s’.
4. As the story progresses, add noisy sounds to make the story more animated. "Whoosh! Clang! Weeeeee! AHHHHHH!!!! " The more involved you are, the more fun you and your child will have.
5. You are now about half way through and building up to the most exciting part of the story. Say some parts louder, quieter or even sing parts. Using your eyes and facial expression will enable your voice to sound more expressive. You could pick up the pace by speaking faster which should keep your child on the edge of their bed!
6. Remember to change your voice for different characters e.g, go high for the fairy or low for the menacing dragon. You could ask your child to join in on parts that are repeated, e.g.” I’ll huff and I’ll puff…”
7. Now heading towards the last minute of the story, you should slow the pace of your storytelling and use a quieter voice so that your child knows it is coming to an end. Your voice needs to be smooth, gentle and breathy; this will relax your child and promote sleepiness.
8. When the story ends, ask your child what their favourite part was. They may have questions themselves. Make sure you answer them as they may not be able to sleep if they have unanswered questions!
So parents, start tucking your little ones in early- their future health heavily depends on it...
-Children aged five to 12 needed 10 to 11 hours of sleep every day, and those aged 12 to 18 needed 8.5 to 9.5 hours.
-Try to create a consistent routine around bedtime that encourages mental calm and no electronic stimulation
-Ensure that noise and light pollution are kept to a minimum to promote good sleep quality
-Use the formula above to create awesome bedtime stories to sooth your child before sleeping