Scientists now have evidence that long-term memories form during sleep. For years we have suspected that sleep was important for learning and memory. This data now confirms that suspicion (See Science Daily, Sept. 16, 2009).
We now believe that new memories, including motor memories (like playing a scale on the piano or shooting a free throw in basketball), are somewhat fragile and that they become more permanent during sleep. (See Science Daily, June 29, 2005).
Now we understand why children and teenagers who are learning new skills and concepts need more sleep than adults. (See Healthy Sleep for Kids).
For children in elementary school, this means ten or eleven hours of sleep each night. Older school aged children still need eight to nine hours (See WebMD, 2003)
Children are involved in so many extra-curricular activities, and those most successful in school often have a lot of homework to complete each night. Add in the time they spend watching TV, listening to music, or talking on the phone and there just are not enough hours in the day to get enough sleep!
It is important to limit the number of activities on school nights in order to allow time for your child to change new memories into permanent long-term memories while sleeping. You might want to think about this when helping your child to decide what extracurricular activities they will do when school starts this fall. Be sure they have enough time for sleep!