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Yawning Gaps in Sleep Endanger Babies, Kids and Teens

By Sandy Schroeder

Everybody talks about sleep, but most of us do not get enough. Now the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has released new guidelines for babies, school-age children and teens. They say children who do not get enough sleep often suffer mentally and physically and run into serious health problems.

The National Sleep Foundation found more than 85 percent of teens do not get enough sleep. This affects their mood, social life, weight, attention and grades. It also sets them up for lifelong sleep problems.

In contrast, kids who get enough sleep are more likely to have a better attention span, memory, emotional control and learning habits.

New Sleep Guidelines

Infants, 4-12 months – 12 to 16 hours of sleep every 24 hours, including naps.

Children: 1-2 years - 11 to 14 hours every 24 hours, including naps.

Children: 3-5 years - 10 to 13 hours every 24 hours, including naps.

Children: 6-12 years - 9 to 12 hours every 24 hours.

Teens: 13-18 years - 8 to 10 hours every 24 hours.

What You Can Do

Making sleep a priority for the whole family, with regular bedtimes and calm routines, will help children follow the same pattern. Families who take regular work and school routines seriously will make weeknights calm and relaxing, saving all of the special events and excitement for the weekend.

Taking all screens out of the bedroom is also key. Light stimulates the brain. Ideally, computers, smartphones and televisions would not be in the bedroom. If they are, turn everything off a half hour before bedtime.

Developing a calm routine, with storytime and baths, can set up natural habits that kick in every night, helping the child wind down.

Making Bedtime Special

My kids loved storytime, so bedtime was accepted as a good time because Mom always found time to read their favorite books with them and talk about their day. Really listening to the ups and downs of their day can also provide a needed release valve for them and give you a better look at what is really happening in their lives.

Making sure kids get outside every day with enough time for healthy exercise, running, playing at the park, or shooting hoops will help release energy and make it easier to wind down at night.

Also making sure their bedrooms are havens of quietness and comfort with light-blocking drapes, comfortable pillows, good mattresses and their favorite blankets and toys, help to make the bedroom their special place.

As adults, most of us look around and see the damaging effects of sleeplessness. We frequently find ourselves gulping coffee, and fighting tiredness. Helping children avoid this whole issue as they learn healthy sleep habits could be the best gift that we could give them.

If sleep is an issue at your house, don’t give up, just keep working on effective ways for everyone to get the sleep they need.


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