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Think of physical fitness like four legs of a table, or four legs of a horse.

Each leg stands for a needed component of fitness and health:

  • Exercise
  • Eating
  • Breathing
  • Sleeping

If any one of these legs is missing, the table is not sturdy. If a horse is missing a leg, it’s barely going to be able to stand up.

The same is true for kids. If they are active, eat healthy and then stay up all night, they will not be at their best.

According to Rachel Dawkins of Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Studies have shown that kids who regularly get an adequate amount of sleep have improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, and overall mental and physical health.”

Sleep is in many ways the most important — and most neglected — leg of the table. Meaning: If you had to choose between eating candy for dinner, sitting in front of a TV all day, or staying up all night, it’s the sleeplessness that is most detrimental to short-term and long-term health. Not that any of those are great decisions, but people are often quick to forego or plan to “make up” sleep when in reality it is crucial to good behavior at school, ability to concentrate and moderate emotions.

My kids like: exercise, eating, breathing, animals. My kids don’t like: sleep.

Therefore I put it in animal terms:

  • Snails sleep 30 hours straight
  • Armadillos 18
  • Giraffe 4 to 6
  • Cow 4
  • Platypus 14
  • Opossum 18
  • Toad 14
  • Donkey 3
  • Star nosed mole 10.3

What’s best for a human kid:  somewhere between a giraffe and a toad, but essentially as much sleep as a star nosed mole. 10 hours give or take an hour.

The next time your kid tries to stay up late, simply tell them you don’t want them to be like a three-legged horse, but more like a well-rested star nosed mole.