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Thursday, February 18, 2010

What kids really mean when they say they're tired

There's a big discussion on The Today programme this morning about whether kids are getting enough sleep and how much it's got to do with the TV in their bedroom. Newsround did a survey in which a lot of kids said they wished they got more sleep. I've heard this one before.

In the course of raising three children I've learned that children and young adults habitually claim to be tired, but they hardly ever make this claim in the evening. The time they make a display of being tired is in the morning, which is when you want them to be up and doing, as my mother used to say. The tiredness is in many cases a sham, intended to mask the fact that they would prefer to stay in bed, not talk to you any further and establish the fact that they have no responsibilites beyond their own immediate comfort.

This starts to change when they miraculously get a job. It begins to dawn on them that it's bad manners to be conspicuously tired in the morning because it suggests that the people you're working with must somehow wait for you to get up to speed. The time when it's OK to be really tired is when you come home from work. In fact it's expected of you.

Eventually you have small children and fantasise about how wonderful it would be to go to bed early or spend more time in bed in the morning. By the time the children have grown up sufficiently to allow you to have this time in bed, you are so wracked with anxieties and responsible for so many different things that you are no longer capable of just snoozing.

The main reason that adolescents spend such an unbelievable amount of their time sleeping is that they sub-consciously know that never again in their lives will they be able to. It's not the sleep of the just but it's sleep nonetheless.