Every parent wants their child to get enough sleep. But what exactly is "enough"? New guidelines form the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) suggests that kids may need more than we originally thought.
When asked how much "enough sleep" is, a lot of parents may say eight hours is sufficient for a child's sleep. But this week, the AASM published, for the first time, an "official consensus recommendations for the amount of sleep needed to promote optimal health in children and teenagers to avoid the health risks of insufficient sleep." The publication can be found on the AASM website.
Here is the breakdown of the recommended amount of sleep for each age group:
As you can see, most children need significantly more sleep than the old standby answer of eight hours.
Of the five groups, teenagers stand the greatest risk of not getting enough sleep. This is partly due to the numerous distractions technology provides. Whether with a smartphone, tablet, computer or mp3, these devices have been found to keep teenagers up when they should be asleep. Experts have even found that the use of any of these devices in the hour before bed is significantly associated with teens taking longer to fall asleep.
The AASM panel found that sleeping fewer than the recommended hours is associated with attention, behavior and learning problems, and also increases the risk of accidents, injuries, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and depression. For teenagers, it can be even more dangerous: teens that aren't getting ample sleep increase their risk for self harm, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.
Dr. Watson says the study shows the strong link between adequate sleep and a child's health.
“Making sure there is ample time for sleep is one of the best ways to promote a healthy lifestyle for a child.”
All of us -- children and adults alike -- should be making getting sleep high in both quality and quantity a priority. We all get busy. And when it seems like there aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done, sleep is usually the first thing we cut away at.
We need to change that. Instead, experts advise that we manage our time better in order to allow for adequate sleep. It's also recommended that we keep TVs, cell phones, tablets and other electronic devices out of the bedroom. And it's best to stay on the same sleeping schedule, whether it's a weekday or weekend.
"More than a third of the U.S. population is not getting enough sleep," said Dr. Nathaniel Watson, 2015-2016 president of the AASM, "and for children who are in the critical years of early development, sleep is even more crucial.”
So for parents, it's important to lay ground rules for children in those critical early development years, in order to make sure they have time for their necessary amount of sleep. That means scheduling time for homework, socializing and household responsibilities.
It's a little extra work, but we all want our kids to grow up as happy and healthy as possible. And a big way we do that is by taking their sleep needs seriously.
Plus, kids are a lot quieter when they're sleeping, and we have a feeling most people wouldn't complain about less noise around the house.
Here's to a good night's sleep for everyone!