Children getting enough sleep
Troy Sebastian is the manager of the Sleep Disorders Center at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center. He can be reached at the center at (602) 865-4808.
Question: Why is it important for my child to get enough sleep and how can I help ensure they’re getting enough sleep?
Answer: Sleep is nourishment for the mind and body. Both need the restorative properties that only come after a good night’s sleep. Proper rest is even more important for children since sleep disorders are often misdiagnosed as behavioral problems, such as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder.
Nearly 40 percent of children diagnosed with behavioral disorders are actually suffering from sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, REM behavior disorder, periodic limb movements, confusional arousals or night terrors. These problems can lead to sleep deprivation, which may later cause stunted growth, poor concentration and learning abilities and even sudden infant death syndrome.
Instead of prescriptions, many children need proper sleep hygiene, which sleeping seven to eight hours per night, waking at the same time everyday and staying away from sodas and other caffeinated foods and drinks during the afternoon. A small snack, maybe a little turkey or a small bowl of cereal, shortly before bedtime can also help children fall asleep. It’s basically the same principal that makes us adults groggy after a big lunch – blood is drawn to our stomachs to aid in digestion, causing us to feel sleepy.
And more than anything, children need to stick to a consistent sleep schedule. Some other suggestions for improving your child’s sleep habits include:
- Make sure the bedroom is quiet, comfortable and safe.
- Sleep as much as needed to feel refreshed and alert during the following day, but no more. Many poor sleepers stay in bed too long or get up late in the morning after a poor night's rest.
- Be advised that sleeping medications become ineffective if used on a regular basis. Since some medications may need to be reduced slowly, consult your physician for the proper way to reduce your sleeping medication.