Sleep Disorders


Is my child getting enough sleep?

Teenagers need 8 and 1/2 to 9 hours of sleep per night, while younger children need 10-12 hours. Here are some warning signs that children are not getting enough sleep:
    Trouble awakening and getting up in the morning.
    Crying or becoming angry too easily.
    Unwillingness to behave or follow expectations.
    Falling asleep at inappropriate times (for example, during a movie, at school, in the car).
    Difficulty concentrating or performing tasks.
    Difficulty going to sleep at bedtime.

Why is Sleep So Important?

Children and adults who are deprived of adequate sleep are at high risk of serious health problems, including accidents, poor learning at school, poor job performance, depression and other mental health problems, and a poor quality of life. When your brain is sleep deprived, it actually becomes permanently damaged, thinning the gray matter (thinking part of your brain), and getting stiffer more breakable neurons (brain cells). This results in poor attention span, poor working memory, poor judgment, lower motivation, and poor decision-making skills.



Sleep is needed for Good Health!

Children up to ten years old need at least 10 hours of sleep every night. When children get less than that, they have greater risk of health problems such as diabetes, depression, and obesity. Even teens and adults need at least 9 hours of sleep every night. For every hour less than 9 hours of sleep, a teen increases the risk of obesity by 80%.

Tips to get better sleep:

** Make sure the bedroom is dark and quiet. A night-light is OK, but not shining in your child's face!

** Don't over-heat the room. You sleep better when the room is cooler. Get a thermostat that sets a cooler temperature at night, and this will also save money in the winter time.

** Try to go to bed the same time every night. Your child's internal clock will learn to get sleepy at the same time each night. This includes weekends! (Staying up late, and sleeping in on weekends does a lot of damage to your child's "internal clock"!)

** Getting lots of exercise can help you sleep better, but don't exercise for 2 hours prior to bed-time. This will just "wind up" your child and make it harder to sleep.

** A light snack, such as a serving of fruit, is OK at bedtime, but don't eat too much.

** It's good to establish a routine that alerts your body to know that it is time to sleep. A bed-time routine might include a bath, brushing teeth, soothing music, or a bed-time story.

** Avoid caffeine drinks, like sodas, especially in the afternoon or evening.

                    [Caffeine can keep you awake! (duh!)]

** Avoid using screens that produce blue light (TV’s, computers, tablets, cell phones) for 2 hours prior to bedtime. The blue light signals your brain to stay awake.

** Teens may need their phones and tablets “turned in” to parents at bedtime to keep kids off the phone and computer games during the night. 

** Schools are resopnsible for some of the sleep problems in children because of early start times, causing children to be awakened before the natural waking time, cutting off healthy sleep. Studies support school start times around 8:30 to 9 AM, as being much healthier. Talk to your school board about this. One study also showed that teen drivers had 16.5% less accidents when school start times were moved up 1 hour later.

Babies Need Sleep Too

Babies cry a lot in the first 3 months, but less after that. This is normal and is called “developmental crying” because it is a normal part of the baby’s development, and may go for 3-5 hours per day. There are several aids that can help babies get to sleep: Swaddling arms and legs, shushing sounds (white noise), gently swinging (never shaking), sucking on a pacifier, and hold the baby on her side or stomach (but she needs to be put down to sleep on her back).

 Physical Problems

Sometimes physical problems such as allergies or large tonsils can cause disturbed sleep, or even sleep apnea (breathing stops for more than 20 seconds at a time). A sleep lab can determine if there is significant sleep disturbance. Check with your doctor if you think this is the case.





Websites that can help with sleep problems:

National Sleep Foundation

Garfield Star Sleeper


© Rick Voakes 1999, Health-bytes LOGO  by Rie Cramer