But parents don't always know how much sleep their child needs, nor do they always recognize sleep problems, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) and the UNM Sleep Disorders Center .
Research shows that children require more sleep than adults, who typically need between seven and nine hours of uninterrupted sleep every night, said Lee Brown, M.D., Executive Director of the Program in Sleep Medicine at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. The NSF recommendations for children's sleep are:
newborns: 10.5 to 18 hours of sleep;
18 months through 3 years: 12-14 hours;
3 to 5 years: 11-13 hours;
5 to 12 years: 9-11 hours;
and teens: 9.25 hours.
In addition to getting enough sleep, parents also need to ensure their children are sleeping well. Sleep problems tend to go undiagnosed in children as well as adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a new set of guidelines in April 2002 stating that routine medical checkups for children include questions about snoring in order to identify possible cases of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Sleep apnea, characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep, has been linked to learning problems, slow growth, bed-wetting, and high blood pressure in youngsters.
Beyond health problems, sleep deprived children may also be at risk for more injuries. A recent Italian study suggests that children who slept less than 10 hours per night had an 86 percent increased risk for injury. Further, 85% of teens are considered sleep deprived because they receive less than the minimum requirement of sleep.
Here are some tips from NSF and the UNMH Sleep Disorders Center to help parents ensure that their children become good sleepers:
Plan a schedule that includes the basic daily sleep requirements according to a child's age. Maintain this schedule every night, even on weekends, though children can be permitted to sleep in one or two hours on weekend mornings if necessary.
Regardless of the child's age, establish a regular bedtime routine. This should include at least 15-30 minutes of calm, soothing activities. Discourage television, exercise, computer, and telephone use immediately before bedtime, and avoid caffeine that can be found in beverages, chocolate and other products within 4 hours of bedtime.
Older children also need a balanced schedule. Identify and prioritize activities that allow for downtime and sufficient sleep time. Help children avoid an overloaded schedule that can lead to stress and difficulty coping, which can contribute to poor health and sleep problems.
Ensure children are eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly to help them maintain a healthy weight. Extra pounds put children at risk for sleep apnea, a serious, debilitating, and potentially life-threatening sleep disorder.
Sleep is a biological requirement, as essential and valuable as good nutrition and exercise. It is an active process that energizes and restores your brain and body.