Although the recommended amount varies by age, children in school should generally be sleeping for a minimum of 8 hours a night, and can even benefit from up to 10, according to experts.
"Sleep disorders and general sleep problems can start young," said Dr. Stephanie Zandieh, director of Pediatric Sleep Disorders and Apnea Center at Valley Hospital. "Fortunately, sometimes the problem can be addressed with something as simple as physical activity. The more minutes children spend running around during the day, the fewer minutes it takes them to fall asleep at bedtime."
As children age, it appears that a lack of sleep can lead to potentially dangerous psychosocial issues. Studies have shown that children who do not get enough sleep are more likely to engage in negative behavior such as smoking and drinking.
In order to prevent lack of sleep from becoming a larger issue for your child, Zandieh recommends taking following steps:
- Establishing a schedule: As difficult as it may be, creating a similar sleep pattern — even on the weekends — helps ensure adequate sleep every day.
- Abolishing long naps: While a short nap (30 minutes or less) after school can help re-energize a kid for the evening, longer naps often lead to difficulties sleeping later at night.
- Adjusting the lighting: Simple tricks like using dim lighting in the evening and exposing your child to bright lights (or sunlight) in the morning help the body get ready for sleep or wake up naturally.
- Limiting caffeine: While caffeine may seem like a great way for teens to stay awake during class, too much can interfere with sleep at night.
- Encouraging calming activities: Winding down evenings with relaxing activities, like reading a book or a warm shower, can help prepare your child of any age mentally for sleep.
- Pulling the plug: Computers, cellphones, televisions and other electronic devices often keep children up too late to get a full night's sleep. Set limits on their use at night.
For more information, contact Valley Medical Group’s Pediatric Sleep Disorders and Apnea Center by calling (201) 447-8152 or clicking here.