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Good Kids, Good Sleep
Sufficient sleep is necessary for good health, good grades and much more
By: Matilda Garcia, MD
As lazy summer days give way to fall and the return to school, families begin to prepare: getting haircuts, shopping for that new backpack and other school supplies, and making sure all summer reading is completed. However, one of the most important tools for a child’s academic success is a good night’s sleep.
Children who are well rested are more alert, focused and better behaved. They retain information more easily and perform better on tests. But getting good sleep has important health benefits outside the classroom, too. Children need plenty of sleep to support their growth and development – as well as their long-term health.
Children who don’t get enough sleep are at increased risk for injury, obesity and chronic disease and poor school performance. Research cited by the National Sleep Foundation found that sleeping less than 10 hours per day increased a child’s injury risk by 86 percent. Industry-wide studies on sleep habits continue to reveal new information about the correlation between insufficient sleep and childhood obesity. A recent review of 17 studies around the country on sleep and childhood obesity, conducted at Johns Hopkins University, concluded that children who fell at least two hours short of sleep benchmarks were almost twice as likely to be overweight or obese.
Just one hour less of sleep each night in early childhood can affect children’s scores on cognitive skill tests at school entry, researchers have found. And a new study published in the April 2009 edition of Pediatrics, the medical journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, found a relationship between sleep problems in childhood and mental functioning in adolescents. Young teens who had experienced persistent sleep problems scored poorly on tests that measured the ability to process new information.
A child’s reaction to sleep deprivation is different from the low energy and sleepiness exhibited by adults, according to experts. A child can experience mood swings, behavioral problems and hyperactivity – symptoms similar to attention deficit disorder.
Children have varying requirements for sleep depending on their age. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that children ages 5 through 12 years get at least 10 to 11 hours of sleep per night. Healthy sleep isn’t just about the number of hours, though. Quality counts, too. Here’s how to make sure your child gets the rest they need:
Consistency is key. Regardless of age, bedtime routines are important. The NSF recommends 15 to 30 minutes of calm activities to wind down for bedtime. An established routine that includes a warm bath, bedtime story and quiet time will set the stage for sweet dreams. Go to bed and get up at the same time, every day, and try not to depart significantly from this schedule on weekends.
Set the example. Maintain good habits yourself – by eating right, exercising and sticking to a regular bedtime – and make this the rule for your household. Your children will follow suit.
Don’t over-commit. Help school-age child balance their schedule with a reasonable commitment to extracurricular or athletic activities that allows ample time for homework, downtime, and most importantly, sleep. That balance should not only be right for your child, but also for your entire family. Too many after-school activities can short-change homework time, dinner and family time and push bedtime later into the evening.
Make the bedroom peaceful. A dark, cool and quiet bedroom will help children – and adults – fall asleep faster and sleep better.
Minimize technology. Television, computer, video games and telephone use should be limited, particularly within the half hour before bedtime. It’s best not to have a computer or television in your child’s room. A 2008 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics also found that teens with a television in their bedroom were less likely to have good health habits.
It’s best to establish and maintain a set bedtime and nighttime routine – and stick to it, year-round. If you don’t slack off on bedtime rules during the summer, it will be easier to transition back to a new school year.
If you do extend bedtime during the summer, start adjusting your child’s sleep schedule back to the normal sleeping and waking times about two weeks prior to the beginning of a new school year to allow the child’s biological clock to reset and adjust to the new schedule.
For more information on sleep and your child’s health, visit the Health Resources link on www.paysonhospital.com
Payson Pediatrics is honored to welcome Dr. Matilda Garcia to their medical practice. Dr. Garcia has recently moved to Payson from Queen Creek, Ariz. where she operated Bethesda Pediatrics. She will join Dr. Andrew Haug in the Payson Pediatrics medical office.
Dr. Garcia is accepting new patients. To make an appointment please call (928) 472-4675. Payson Pediatrics is located at 126 E. Main Street. Suite B in Payson.
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Sources: Web MD, webmd.com; American Academy of Pediatrics, aap.org, The National Sleep Foundation, sleepfoundation.org