Getting enough sleep tough for kids and teens

Getting enough sleep tough for kids and teens
Former TV host Diana Ser with husband James Lye and their three children.
Photo: Courtesy of Diana Ser

They should be sleeping eight to 10 hours a day, but children and teenagers here mostly struggle to adopt such a lifestyle, according to the NurtureSG committee, a taskforce formed to promote physical and mental health of children.

Former TV host Diana Ser's three children buck the trend, though.

She enforces a 10-hour sleeping schedule for her children, who are in bed by 8pm every night.

A friend had advised her to start such a routine with her children as growth hormones are released during their sleep.

The 45-year-old said: "People think I am mad, but why wouldn't you want the best for your children?"

Ms Ser's children, aged 11, nine and six, begin their day at 6am and end it by 8pm, even on days when they have enrichment classes.

Her emphasis on sleep for her children is supported by the principal of Creative O Preschoolers' Bay, Ms Tan Beng Luan, who said good resting habits begin with parents conditioning their children even before they enter formal education.

Ms Tan, 62, said: "Cultivating good habits should begin even before the child is born. They must be prepared and aware of the significance of rest to a child's growth."

Dr Joshua Gooley, 38, an associate professor at Duke-NUS Medical School, said scientific research has proven that sleep is important for a child's growth.

Citing his survey and laboratory-based research that showed a correlation between sleep deprivation in teenagers and depression levels, he said: "Teenagers may spend more time studying at the expense of sleeping hours, but that worsens their mood and their cognitive and processing levels."

The NurtureSG committee issued a slew of recommendations to promote a healthy lifestyle among children here on Thursday.

'IDEALISTIC'

Some parents find the recommendations "idealistic and impractical".

Sales manager Sebastian Goh, 48, said his 15-year-old son, who has tuition three times a week and extra-curricular activities twice weekly, often sleeps past midnight.

The father of two said his son can manage seven hours of sleep if he completes his work on time, but felt that the committee's recommendation of eight to 10 hours would be "difficult to enforce".

Marketing consultant Walter Lim, 46, described 10 hours of a sleep a day for his 14-year-old son as a "luxury".

His son gets six to eight hours sleep daily, partly due to extra-curricular activities and school projects occupying his time.

Mr Lim added: "Sometimes, it is not about my son having too much homework or too much tuition, but us wanting to bond as a family after school and work."

Dr Chia Shi-Lu, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, told The New Paper yesterday that NurtureSG will be working on a variety of engagement strategies with parents, schools and community groups.

Mrs Susan Vaughan, an Australian human resource director and mother of two who moved here four years ago, said the problem is not exclusive to Singapore.

She lived in Sydney before her move, and said her children struggled to get the recommended hours of sleep there too.

She said: "It is possibly a societal trend we are dealing with."

chualel@sph.com.sg

tanpya@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Feb 25, 2017.
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