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Sleep and Children

Sunday, August 2, 2015

As the new Noyes Health community educator, I now have the privilege of writing health articles for the local media.  Before I start, however, I want to take time to thank my predecessor, Pam Maxson.  Pam diligently researched and wrote health articles on a wide variety of topics over the years.  Her time and commitment to Noyes Health wellness enhanced the lives of countless employees and community members.  Pam recently resigned from Noyes Health and started a new adventure as a health and wellness coach.  On behalf of the entire Noyes Health community, thank you Pam for your service.  We wish you the very best.

And now for this week’s article:

The long daylight hours of summer are upon us.  With sunlight lasting well into the evening, bedtimes may be delayed.  When my kiddos were little, it was easy to let them stay up a little later than usual in the summer but then BAM, school would hit.  A good sleep schedule was once again in order.  A new school year is just around the corner so this seemed like a good opportunity to write about good sleep practices.

Sleep is critical for physical, mental, and emotional health.  A University of Pittsburgh study confirmed that inadequate sleep results in tiredness, difficulties with focused attention, irritability, easy frustration, and difficulty controlling impulses and emotions.  Unfortunately, many children are not getting adequate sleep and this may be affecting their school performance, relationships, and health.    A 2004 poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) found that 69% of children experience one or more sleep problems more than one night a week, and 14 % of school-aged children wake up at least once every night.  They also found that school aged children with a TV in their bedroom lose more than 2 hours of sleep each week; and children between 3– 10 years of age who have at least one caffeinated beverage a day lose about 3 ½ hours of sleep a week.

Each child’s sleep pattern is unique, but here are some basic sleep guidelines for all families:

  1. Know how much sleep is needed at each stage of childhood.  The basic guidelines are: Newborns –  up to 18 hours a day

Toddlers (ages 1-2) – 11-14 hours/day

Preschoolers (ages 3-5) – 11-13 hours/day

School-age (ages 6-13) – 9-11 hours/day

Teens – 8-11 hours/day

  1. Starting at an early age, have a consistent bedtime and bedtime routine including a wind-down period with perhaps soft music or story.  (If the summer sleep schedule has been inconsistent, start working on a regular routine in August before school starts.)  

  1. Consider screen time in a room other than the bedroom.   Limit screen time in the hour leading up to bedtime.

  1. Offer only caffeine-free beverages.

  1. Parents and caregivers – be good sleep role models.  

  1. Parents should watch for signs of sleep deprivation in children and teens.  Signs include difficulty waking in the morning, late day irritability, falling asleep spontaneously during a quiet moment and needing extra sleep on weekends.

  1. With older children, discuss time commitments for extracurricular activities and jobs.  Making sure your child is not overwhelmed and sleep deprived.  

  1. Teens that fall asleep in class are often mistaken for being lazy or having bad habits.  They may simply be sleep deprived or have a sleep disorder.   

To learn more about sleep and children, go to http://sleepforkids.org.  This site is a service of the National Sleep Foundation and is a fun way for you and your child to learn about the importance of sleep.  If you have further questions or believe your child may have a sleep disorder, contact your physician.  Until next week, be well and sleep well!

Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville.  If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at lwichtowski@noyeshealth.org or 585-335-4327.  

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