New York magazine has an excellent article up on the impacts of kids sleeping habits and their cognitive development:

Overstimulated, overscheduled kids are getting at least an hour’s less sleep than they need, a deficiency that, new research reveals, has the power to set their cognitive abilities back years.

According to surveys by the National Sleep Foundation, 90 percent of American parents think their child is getting enough sleep. The kids themselves say otherwise. In those same surveys, 60 percent of high schoolers report extreme daytime sleepiness. In another study, a quarter admit their grades have dropped because of it. Over 25 percent fall asleep in class at least once a week.

The raw numbers more than back them up. Half of all adolescents get less than seven hours of sleep on weeknights. By the time they are seniors in high school, according to studies by the University of Kentucky, they average only slightly more than 6.5 hours of sleep a night. Only 5 percent of high-school seniors average eight hours. Sure, we remember being tired when we went to school. But not like today’s kids.

It has been documented in a handful of major studies that children, from elementary school through high school, get about an hour less sleep each night than they did 30 years ago. While parents obsess over babies’ sleep, this concern falls off the priority list after preschool. Even kindergartners get 30 minutes less a night than they used to.

How much sleep do your kids get?

One harsh truth of competitive soccer has been the­ practices are later in the evening. Our league has limited field space, and has generally scheduled recreational practices in the 5:30 and 6:30 slots with the Challenge teams practicing at 7 or 7:30. My U11 team generally practiced from 7-8:30, but within a month, half the team was leaving at 8PM to have enough time to get home and get to sleep at a reasonable hour – something I fully supported. When you have kids who are field rats, they often will be at your practices even if you don’t coach them, so it was not unusual for our kids to get home at 9PM sometimes, and have to shower and get ready for bed by 9:30/10PM. This would get them about 8.5-9 hours of sleep, which seems like enough. But we still worked to get them in bed by 9PM if we could.

The funny thing is, they’re up later now that soccer is OVER it seems. They don’t fall asleep like they usually did during the season. My eldest will often still be awake at 10PM, even though we had them in bed by 9. So I still can’t decide if we were stressing our kid’s sleep habits or not. Both are doing very well in school and they get up reasonably well in the morning. It’s the two youngest we have to drag out of bed in the morning.

So how do you view the sleep issue? Do your kids practice late and if so how late and at what age? Do they sleep better during soccer season or during the off season? I can’t imagine my kids only getting 6-7 hours of sleep, but clearly it happens. I think the point about time to ‘unwind’ is very important. Yet I don’t think practice stresses my kids out – I think it helps them unwind and forget about everything else. Its the Friday night before a big match that can be stressful.

Still, its an important topic and this article brings a lot of cautionary points to light that I felt worth sharing.