Make Sleep a Priority for Children

The 2003 National Survey of Children’s Health showed that 15 million US children and teens get inadequate sleep.  I would have to think that in our current climate of constant electronic use & more demanding year round sports and activity schedules, that that number has risen.  Encouraging sleep is one of the most important things that we as parents can do. The American Academy of Pediatrics has even gone so far as to call on school systems to start later to help middle-school and high-school students sleep longer.  Studies have shown that kids that are sleep deprived can have difficulty focusing during the day, mood and behavioral issues and be prone to overeat throughout the day.

The average school age child can need upwards of 10 hours a night, and that’s not always easy to come by. Some weekend catch up time can help, but it will not fix the problem and too much sleeping-in can actually alter diurnal rhythms making the weekday wake up time even more difficult.

What can we do? First make bed time a priority. Get the TVs and electronics out of children’s bedrooms and limit their use the hour or two before bedtime. Avoid exercise within 1-2 hours before bed. Although, some exercise during the daytime promotes better sleep. Encourage kids to get their homework done when they get home from school so they get some down time before bed. Avoid heavy meals and snacks right before bed, completely avoid caffeine, and encourage a bedtime routine. Having good “sleep hygiene” is an important skill for all of us to learn and practice regularly.

By Dr. Ann Jones, pediatrician, ThedaCare Physicians-Pediatrics in Appleton