More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Sleep Issues of Kids & Teens
From the day the baby is brought home from the hospital to the day the teenager becomes an adult and moves out, parents are face with the question, are they getting enough sleep? Recent research shows that children of all ages are not getting enough sleep. The studies also show that failure to get enough sleep can result in poor school achievement and behavior problems. Through the ages children and teenagers have fought with their parents about bed time and the need for sleep. On the page you will find information on how sleep effects child and adolescent develop. You will also learn how to help your child or teen get the right amount of sleep.

Newborn infants have irregular sleep cycles, which take about 6 months to mature. While newborns sleep an average of 16 to 17 hours per day, they may only sleep 1 or 2 hours at a time. As children get older, the total number of hours they need for sleep decreases. However, different children have different needs. It is normal for even a 6 month old to wake up briefly during the night, but these awakenings should only last a few minutes and children should be able to go back to sleep easily on their own.

Toddlers & Preschoolers
Fewer minutes and hours of sleep add up to more problems in the daytime behavior of children aged two to five, according to new research. Two- and three-year-old children sleeping less than 10 hours in a 24-hour period were consistently at greatest risk for behavior problems such as oppositional or noncompliant behavior, "acting out" behaviors, and aggression, reported the team of Northwestern University scientists conducting the study. Preschoolers who sleep less at night have almost 25 percent greater chance of psychiatric diagnosis, according to the study, published in the June issue of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

Here are some basic suggestions from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
1. Make sure there is a quiet period before your child goes to bed. Establishing a pleasant routine that may include reading, singing, or a warm bath. A regular routine will help your child understand that it will soon be time to go to sleep. If parents work late hours, it may be tempting to play with their child before bedtime. However, active play just before bedtime may leave the child excited and unable to sleep. Limit television viewing and video game play before bed.
2. Try to set a consistent schedule for your child and make bedtime the same time every night. His sleep patterns will adjust accordingly.
3. Allow your child to take a favorite teddy bear, toy, or special blanket to bed each night. Such comforting objects often help children fall asleep, especially if they awaken during the middle of the night. Make sure the object is safe. A teddy bear may have a ribbon, button, or other part that may pose a choking hazard for your child. Look for sturdy construction at the seams. Stuffing or pellets inside the stuffed animal may also pose a danger of choking.
4. Make sure your child is comfortable. Check the temperature in your child's room. Clothes should not restrict movement. He may like to have a drink of water, have a night-light left on, or the door left slightly open. Try to handle your child's needs before bedtime so that he doesn't use them to avoid going to bed.
5. Try to avoid letting your child sleep with you. This will only make it harder for him to learn to settle himself and fall asleep when he is alone.
6. Try not to return to your child's room every time he complains or calls out. A child will quickly learn if you always give in to his requests at bedtime. When your child calls out, try the following:
  • Wait several seconds before answering. Your response time can be longer each time to give your child the message that it is time for sleep. It also gives him the opportunity to fall asleep on his own.
  • Reassure your child that you are there. If you need to go into his room, do not stimulate the child or stay too long.
  • Move farther from your child's bed every time you reassure him, until you can do this verbally without entering his room.

School Age Children
A recent study reported in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics that 37% of the children in this age group experience significant sleep problems. Problems may include a reluctance to go to sleep, waking up in the middle of the night, nightmares, and sleepwalking. In older children, bed-wetting can also become a challenge.

Children in the sixth-grade may suffer adverse cognitive, behavioral and emotional consequences due to an increased risk of being chronically sleep deprived, according to a new study in the May issue of Developmental Psychology, a journal published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Children vary in the amount of sleep they need and the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. How easily they wake up and how quickly they can resettle are also different for each child. It is important, however, that as a parent you help your child develop good sleep habits at an early age. The good news is that most sleep problems can be solved and your pediatrician can help. A good place to start looking for help is in Sleep Problems in Children by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In the 1970's researchers at Stanford University discovered that teenagers require more sleep, by 1 to 2 hours, than do their younger 9 and 10 year old siblings, yet most teenagers get 1 to 2 hours less. Teenagers are the sleepiest members of society and this sleepiness is associated with poor school performance, increased drug and alcohol use, and increased automobile accidents. This level of sleepiness may also play a role in the high rate of teenage suicides. However, in addition to requiring more sleep than do 9 and 10 year old children, or adults, teenagers typically have altered biologic rhythms which vary the time of night teenagers sleep best and the times of day teenagers are most alert. The timing of sleep and wake is very dependent on the sun. Humans typically sleep at night and are awake in the daytime. By following the simple practices of awakening at about the same time (give or take 1 to 2 hours) daily and getting bright light and by remembering that the need for sleep increases during the teenage years, teenagers can sleep well. If teenagers sleep well at night, they are very likely to function well in the daytime.
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