As if it were not bad enough that more than a third of lower primary school pupils are not getting enough sleep, only 8 per cent of parents recognise that their child may have sleep problems. These results of a survey, conducted by Nanyang Technological University students, should help to draw attention to the extent of sleep deprivation among young pupils, and the need for far greater parental awareness of its detrimental effects on children.
Such effects are documented in studies that associate inadequate sleep in children with higher rates of problems with attention, behaviour, emotions and studies. Inadequate sleep includes insufficient time in bed and disruptions and disturbances of sleep. In the case of Singapore, the main problem appears to be that children are going to bed later than they should and rising on time to be in school.
The absence of a regular bedtime routine is caused partly by pre-bedtime habits such as watching television, using smartphones and staying glued to computers. Worryingly, such practices often mirror parental habits. This makes a strong case for parents, whenever possible, not only to demand of their children, but also of themselves, the discipline of daily routine that empowers sleep with its restful and restorative powers.
Admittedly, the pressures of a competitive education system might encourage Singaporean parents to cut corners with their children's sleep. However, this would be short-sighted, and short-change the young. Adequate sleep - along with other fundamental requisites of physical and mental well-being such as a healthy diet and regular exercise - should be viewed as a non-tradable component of the good life. Children deserve a regular and reliable regimen of sleep that prepares them for the challenges of the waking day. There are a host of strategies that are available from library and online resources on winding down for sleep. Just don't make these bedtime reading.