Five-year-old Ricky had difficulty focusing in morning kindergarten session and fell asleep during the afternoon work time. After lunch Ricky would start to act “hyper,” push and hit other children on the playground. When Ricky laid down to rest, he’d be asleep in five minutes and have to be woken for three o’clock dismissal. Leaving school, Ricky would cry because he hadn’t gotten to be with his friends.
At our October conference I visited with his mother and father about Ricky’s naps. “I guess he just needs more sleep right now. I’m sure Ricky will grow out of his naps soon enough,” his father told me.
I regretted not finding out more about Ricky’s nighttime schedule at our November conference. To most people a five-year-old taking a two- or three-hour nap in the afternoon might not seem like a problem. Ricky was bright and energetic and was becoming more frustrated as his friends did classroom and outdoor activities without him. His classmates were learning to read, and Ricky felt left out of his work groups.
After a few more weeks of this napping routine, I called Ricky’s mother. “What time does Ricky go to bed and get up in the morning?” I asked.
“Ricky gets up at six with us, and he’s in bed by ten,” Ricky’s mom told me.
As we continued our conversation, I discovered that Ricky had a television, video player, computer and video games in his bedroom.
Most nights, Ricky went to sleep with a movie playing in his room. Ricky had expressed his frustration to his parents of feeling left out and not getting along with the other children.
I suggested that we work together to try to adjust Ricky’s sleeping schedule so that he would be alert, cheerful and productive at school.
Five-year-olds need between 10 to 13 hours of sleep per day.
Ricky was getting between 10 and 11 hours of sleep in a routine that worked for him and his parents. To maximize his time with his parents, Ricky went to bed and got up according to his parent’s schedule. If Ricky hadn’t expressed a desire to work in the afternoon class or had been more alert during the morning, I might have recommended that he continue to nap. Ricky wasn’t happy, and his parents and I agreed to make some changes to help him.
After conferencing with his mother and father, we decided to work on changing his bedtime and wake-up times. We coordinated a weekly schedule where Ricky took half an hour less nap at school and during weekends, and he went to bed half an hour earlier. Each week we added another half hour, so that in a month Ricky was in bed by eight every night, and not napping at school. Ricky’s father also removed all the electronic equipment from Ricky’s bedroom, so there would be no distractions for a good night’s rest.
In a few weeks Ricky was involved in all the classroom activities and was able to control his actions on the playground. Ricky began to read and “catch-up” with his peers. He was excited about school again, and it was wonderful to see his bright eyes and smile every afternoon.
For more information about your child’s sleep requirements as well as tips for parents and teachers on solving sleep problems, go to www.sleepforkids.org.