As featured in Good Growing
Studies consistently show that less than half of all school-age kids get enough sleep most weeknights. While the most recognized consequence of inadequate sleep is daytime sleepiness, children commonly manifest their sleepiness as irritability, behavioral problems, learning difficulties and poor academic performance.
Some sleep disruptions are normal and are connected to age-related changes. Others are symptoms of an actual sleep disorder. Whatever the reason, sleep problems can affect the entire family and should be accurately diagnosed.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 6 to 12 get between 9 and 12 hours of sleep each night, and that teens get 8 to 10 hours. Quality sleep provides immense benefits and children who regularly get enough sleep have healthier immune systems and better overall mental health. Additionally, they have sharper memories and better behavior, which are key to success in school.
Kids who do not get enough sleep are more apt to suffer from physical and emotional problems. A lack of sleep affects mood and concentration, and can lead to health issues like headaches, obesity and depression. Not getting enough quality sleep makes it tougher for kids to cope with life — both at home and at school.
The good news is that parents can ensure their kids get enough sleep by helping them practice what’s known as ‘sleep hygiene.’ Sleep hygiene refers to tried-and-true habits and routines that make it easier for kids to fall asleep and stay asleep. It includes keeping a consistent bedtime and wake time, and ensuring a child’s bedroom is dark, cool, quiet and comfortable. And for younger kids, it helps to have a soothing ritual before bed such as taking a bath, putting on cozy pajamas, brushing teeth and reading a story.
For kids of all ages, getting plenty of exercise and spending time outside during the day can help them get a deep and restful sleep at night. However, in the hour or so before bed, avoid exercise or high-energy activities, including rough-housing. Give your child a chance to unwind and relax.
Also avoid screen time starting an hour before bed, and don’t allow screens in your child’s bedroom at night. This includes TVs, computers and phones. Many families find that having their tweens and teens surrender their phones at night helps kids get to sleep faster and stay asleep. Ensuring that your household is prioritizing valuable sleep habits throughout the year can be a worthwhile investment for the family’s overall happiness and wellbeing.
Seattle Children’s offers the only sleep center in the region exclusively dedicated to caring for babies, children and teens. Our sleep program is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
- Sleep Medicine – Seattle Children’s (seattlechildrens.org)
- PE1066 Sleep Hygiene for Children (seattlechildrens.org)
- Patient and Family Resources for Sleep Medicine at Seattle Children’s (seattlechildrens.org)
- AAP endorses new recommendations on sleep times | AAP News
- American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) | Sleep | Medical Society
- Good Growing – Seattle Children’s (seattlechildrens.org)