"We do not know exactly how diet and sleep affect mood and behavior, but we do know they influence and reflect both. Not only do diet and sleep influence mood and behavior, but emotional problems may be first manifested in a change in how a child eats and/or sleeps. Without going into detail, it is enough to say that food may contribute, positively or negatively, to the emotional makeup of your child. Similarly, sleep may provide the tip-off that your child is upset or worried over something. Just as problems may be reflected in sleep patterns, sleep patterns may cause problems. We all know children who do not get enough sleep tend to be irritable and moody. It is also not a good idea for your child to vary his or her sleep schedule widely. The common adolescent practice of sleeping very late on non-school days is not a great idea. Large shifts in sleep patterns decrease the quality of sleep in general. The long sleep becomes less refreshing and perhaps more depressing. Lack of sleep is becoming a part of modern life. Your brain likes to get into a set rhythm if it can." When You Worry About The Child You Love by Edward Hallowell, M.D.
A good article about kids, sleep and stress appears in the Oct. 2002 Prevention: "Sleep Beats Kids' Stress at Any Age--Earlier 'good nights' set the stage for better days.” Author Lori Nudo says that the research shows that 3rd grade kids who get at least 10 hours of sleep a night deal better with the normal stresses of school, friends and physical growth better than those with less sleep. (They measured stress hormones in this study of 138 3rd grade girls and reported findings to the American Psychological Society's 2002 meeting.) The article suggests limiting sweets and caffeine after school and turning off TV at least half an hour before bedtime to help the transition to sleep. "Children need this much sleep every day: toddlers 13-15 hrs., preschoolers 11-12 hrs.; grade schoolers - 10 hrs.; teens 8 ½-9 ½ hrs." Let the sheep counting begin!
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