Why do children and youth need to sleep more?

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Introduction:

Sleep is important for overall good health. During sleep, the body rests, grows and gets repaired. Sleep enhances performance and is an all-natural energy supplement.

Youth and adolescents who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight, not engage in physical activity, suffer from depression, perform poorly in school and engage in high-risk activities like tobacco smoking, drinking, and illicit drug use.

Why should children and youth sleep more?

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that children aged 13-18 sleep 8 to 10 hours a day for good health. Several changes, physical, neurodevelopmental, psychological and social take place in children and youth.

During puberty, adolescents fall asleep later at night and need to wake up later to make up for shifts in their rhythm. This shift in rhythm (sleep-wake cycles) begin to shift up to 2 hours at the start of puberty.

Most children and youth sleep late and wake up early during the week due to exposure to electronics, heavy traffic, long travel distance and early school resumption times.

What can be done?

To ensure children and youth sleep more.

Parents can

  • model and encourage habits that promote good sleep by setting regular bed and rise times including on weekends
  • dim the lighting in the bedroom (including from electronics).
  • institute a “media curfew” by setting a time to stop using electronics and removing them from the bedroom.
  • advocate for later resumption times, reduction in the amount of school work brought home.

Health care professionals should

  • educate parents and adolescents on the importance of sleep and the shortfalls of reduced sleep time.

School officials should

  • learn about research connecting sleep and early school start times. Studies have shown that getting adequate sleep improves overall health and results in better academic performance in adolescents and youth.

Conclusion

Parents or guardians as well as health care professionals should play an active role in modelling and encouraging habits that promote good sleep for children and youth to improve their overall health.

Written by Dr. Yemi Olaniran

References

https://www.cdc.gov/features/school-start-times/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html

http://sleepeducation.org/healthysleep/sleep-recharges-you-teen-sleep-duration

http://sleepeducation.org/news/2016/08/16/help-your-teen-recharge-with-sleep

Photo by Charles on Unsplash

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