Published: Feb. 26, 2009
Updated: July 7, 2010
The information in this article comes from a discussion about children and sleep led by Richard Kravitz, MD.
Here's a sleep riddle for you: How much sleep should your child get?
Answer: As much as he or she needs.
Determining how much sleep your child needs can be tricky. While there is no magic number for the amount of sleep a child is supposed to get, rules of thumb are that he or she should fall asleep 10 to 15 minutes after getting into bed and should wake up refreshed.
When thinking about how much sleep your child should get, keep in mind that infants need more sleep than young children, and younger children need more sleep than older children.
While many parents attribute their teen's moodiness and angst to hormones and age, research suggests that many teens are actually just sleep deprived. Most teens are not getting anywhere close to the nine to 10 hours of sleep per night that their bodies require.
Especially during the school week, teenagers are sleep deprived as they struggle to fit school, sports, jobs, and homework into their busy schedules. Schools that have taken this into account and moved their start time to a later hour have seen remarkable improvements in concentration and test scores, as well as a dramatic decline in truancy and teen-related car accidents.
While many teens look to the weekends to catch up on their sleep, this bad habit just perpetuates their work-week sleep deprivation.
In addition to simply needing more sleep, teenagers experience a dramatic shift in their sleep drives. This biochemical change causes them to want to stay up later and sleep in later.
Teenagers who can't control their sleep drives in light of this shift can develop serious sleep problems including delayed sleep phase syndrome (where the body's internal clock is constantly out of synch with the "accepted" day/night phases).
Be aware of some of the sleep abnormalities that your child may be facing, which can include:
While doctors ultimately diagnose sleep problems, some steps you can take to see if your child has a sleep problem include:
Simply changing your child's sleep habits and implementing good sleep hygiene can solve your child's sleep problem.
Ways to create good sleep hygiene:
The most common treatment for kids with sleep apnea is a tonsillectomy or an adenoidectomy.
In both of these cases, the obstruction to the child's breathing is removed, and the sleep apnea is cured.
A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device treats sleep apnea by using air pressure to force the child's airways to stay open when they sleep.
Giving children sleep medicine to treat sleep disorders, such as insomnia, is controversial because of the chance that they will become dependent on these medicines.
While some extreme cases may require medication to treat certain sleep disorders, behavior modification or other treatments should always be tried first.