Thursday, 21 August 2014

Sleep and rest...

In a few months time I will have been blogging for two years... there are a few themes that have popped up regularly... one of them as been sleep and rest... this probably has a lot to do with my husband being a sleep researcher, it means I naturally notice this kind of research, and it also means I have proof-read his English in articles etc he has written, and picked up stuff, I have listened to him talk about sleep, and I have consulted him when it comes to rest for young children... since this is one of the areas that that both teachers and parents reflect a great deal on... to make things work... so the child can manage a whole day, so that they get a good night's sleep and getting that balance perfect so that day-napping does not interfere with night sleeping...

Sleep is without the shadow of a doubt the best medicine... learning REQUIRES sleep... as my husband says, the best way to learn is to sleep/repeat - and in the repetition there is refinement and deeper understanding, or the fundemental grasping of how something works... and if you think about it... when babies are learning ALL the time, they are also sleeping an awful lots of the day.

The links to what I have written about sleep are here...

Sleep Notes from John Axelsson - these are my notes from listening to my husband do a workshop for parents and teachers of preschoolers... I really wish he had more time and that he could visit all preschools.

Sleep and preschool part 1
Sleep and preschool part 2i
Sleep and preschool part 2ii

My husband has read and checked that all of these posts are factually correct... well at least at the time of posting them...

Sometimes I get concerned how nap/rest time is being replaced with a "resting activity". Mindfulness, yoga, massage... more activities that are lead by adults, less time for the children to work out for themselves how to wind down, how to listen to their inner voice, how to allow their body to relax. I want these children to be competent... but also competent at relaxing... the world is forever egttig busier and stressful... and as adults there seems little precious time to find downtime... I want these children to be able to wind down themselves in a few spare minutes that they get as adults, as teenagers, in school, at the weekend... and not be dependant on an adult as to how to relax by having to do an activity with others and having to listen to others and having to rest in a certain way... even if it is varied...

Learning to be comfortable with your inner self, to be comfortable doing nothing and letting your imagination run riot I feel will help children become creative...

In my post Does boredom give birth to creativity I reflect on the fact we give children far too little time to just be... so of course when they are so used to having their time filled, being entertained with activities pedagogical and fun, they are going to think having time to do nothing is BORING... but as I say to my children... if rest time is boring then you need a new daydream... rest is only as boring as you make it...

Some of my children have returned from summer and are having to re-learn how to rest... they spend the whole rest wondering when rest is over... so of course they have not rested... but I also know, that they need to get comfortable with day-dreaming again, of hearing their own imagination and enjoying the fact that they can be creative - sometimes we have collective dreams... we talk about what we are going to dream of... if we will meet on a beach, if we are going to build something together... and sometimes we will talk about it afterwards.

There is always a story CD on VERY low in the background... so you listen to hear it, or you can easily tune it out when you want to dream or reflect on the morning. When I lie with the children I often reflect on the morning - thinking about how the play could be further challenged, or how i could have phrased something differently... or what I am going to write in my blog - sometimes this half hour can be one of my most creative times of the day... sometimes I lie there and wonder what each child is thinking about... some lie with their eyes open, some with their eyes closed, some fall asleep, most just rest (2-5 years) - sometimes children fall asleep on just one day every month... their body taking what it needs...

The parents I work with have had the opportunity to listen to my husband talk about sleep last autumn, so there is an understanding about the importance of sleep and rest on their developing brains, and for their health... those who don't usually sleep nearly always fall asleep the day before their parents call us saying they are at home with fever or some other sickness... the body knows before we do, and it takes the rest when it is given the time to do so.

For me rest is a non-negotiable... children NEED it even if the children don't always like it at first... I mean what child wants to go to bed (and yes I know there are those that do have children who like going to bed - but I do believe they are a minority) - BUT as adults we know that children have to go to bed, for their health, to manage the day, for their development... so why is there so much doubt when it comes to rest? Why do so many teachers suddenly think that not all children need it anymore...

For children I guess learning is SLEEP/PLAY - and REST for those who are not napping... because even if they are not getting the full brain benefits of a nap, their bodies, when lying down and resting properly, are able to de-stress... which means learning is easier...
There is the research out there
  Monique K. LeBourgeois
is doing lots of research concerning young children... she is based in Boulder, Colorado, where my family and I have been this summer... my husband working at the same department as Monique during that time (6 weeks)
The effects of napping and not napping  this is a short article on one of her research areas... and shows that yes, a child might manage without a nap, but the continuous lack of naps (or rest for older children) can mean that their negative responses are being reinforced...

Children come to preschool here in Sweden, mostly because their parents work... so children have to follow their parents working hours... some are dropped off early and picked up late and expected not to nap so that they will go to bed early so that the parents can relax and also get to sleep... I belive the parents have the right to rest too...but is all of this for the child's best... well, no... to be honest it is not... but we all do the best we can. This is why I will maintain that REST is essential, even for the non-nappers... to be able to have the energy and stress levels to manage the day positively... to be re-enforcing positive attitudes not negative attitudes... to give these children the power to feel they can do anything.

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