What good are bedtime tips if you don’t know why they’re important? Here’s the #1 thing you need to know about sleep, according to Dr. Meir Kryger.

Last week, I traveled up to New Haven, Connecticut where Dr. Kryger practices at the Yale Center for Sleep Medicine and Pulmonary Critical Care and the New England VA Healthcare System. I had attended 8 lectures given by Dr. Kryger titled “The Mystery of Sleep” – a rather engaging and embracing title for lectures to be given by a man of science. The lectures balanced data, biology, neuroscience, even art and philosophy about sleep, as well as answered the how-to questions from the audience.

To get just a glimpse of the scope of The Mystery of Sleep presentations, check out The iGuide to Sleep.

Spring had finally come to the northeast, and it was a sunny, breezy day when I drove into the West Haven V.A. parking lot. The lot was described to me as being “the size of Nebraska” by Dr. Kryger. And despite the truth of that statement, it wasn’t easy to find a place to park – an indication of the health needs of veterans. Sleep is only one of the issues confronting those who served in the military.

Dr. Kryger generously spoke with me for over an hour, and the digital recording device caught it all. He affirmed that sleep is a priority – the “canary” when it comes to health issues. Misdiagnoses of medical and psychological issues occur all the time. Children are on medication for conditions such as ADHD…even schizophrenia and depression…when all that is needed is an assessment of sleep and sleep patterns.

Scary stuff ….

….but to be forewarned is to be forearmed. I wish I’d know this when my daughter was younger.
My next question of this sleep expert was:

What are the 5 most important things a parent needs to know about sleep?

Number 1, without hesitation, was be aware that sleep requirements vary according to age -children have different sleep requirements than adults. Even the most informed, well-intentioned parents look towards diagnoses other than missing an hour or two or sleep, or not having a solid bedtime routine hard-wired into the family schedule if their child is having difficulty in school, or trouble sharing. (Click here for a rundown of signs a child isn’t getting enough sleep.) In Dr. Kryger’s experience, most sleep issues are identified by teachers.

Don’t forget the long-term effects of sleep deprivation…

…such as sleep’s effects on growth, cognition and memory, tendency towards obesity and diabetes.

To help with understanding your family’s sleep needs, The National Sleep Foundation has a very helpful infographic available here.

With each age groups there are other factors – the infographic presents a ballpark calculation. For example, newborns will get their 19 hours of sleep in shorter bursts than school-aged children. Teens begin to take longer to go to sleep, so it might be wise to schedule an hour and a half to two hours as a time to unplug, read recreationally, and pave the way for an easy transition to sleep.

Teach your family to respect sleep as much as you teach them to respect their bodies and the world around them. It will pay off in the long-term.

What were the other 4 most important things a family should know about sleep?

To hear Dr. Kryger’s answers, download the free Bedtime Blueprint which will help you schedule your day with an eye towards sleep and learn what experts like Dr. Kryger have to say about getting regular, restorative sleep.