Children’s Sleep Problems Are a Wake-Up Call for Parents
By Tracy Carbone, M.D.
Director of The Valley Hospital Pediatric Sleep Disorders and Apnea Center
The National Sleep Foundation's (NSF) 2004 Sleep in America poll included some troubling information about children's sleep habits. The survey found that America 's children are sleeping far less than experts recommend and that more than two-thirds experience frequent sleep problems.
Experts recommend that infants get 14 to 15 hours, toddlers 12 to 14 hours, preschoolers 11 to 13 hours and school-aged children 10 to 11 hours of sleep each day. But the poll showed that 50 percent of infants, 34 percent of toddlers, 32 percent of preschoolers and 27 percent of school-age children fall short of that goal.
The survey also found that nearly 70 percent of all children experience one or more sleep problems at least a few nights a week. The most common sleep problems reported include difficulty falling asleep, night waking, snoring, stalling resisting going to bed, trouble breathing and lout of heavy breathing while asleep.
Children's poor sleep habits have a direct effect on their daytime behavior. According to parents surveyed by the NSF, 25 percent of children and infants appear sleepy or overtired during the day and three out of 10 of school-aged children have difficulty waking in the morning. Left unaddressed, poor sleep habits can lead to behavior problems and learning difficulties in the classroom.
Regular sound sleep is so important to children's health and well being, that I encourage parents to make sleep a priority for their children.
Parents can help ensure their children get a good night's sleep by:
- limiting their intake of caffeinated soft drinks. These should be avoided completely in the late afternoon or evening.
- enforcing a regular bedtime and maintaining a bedtime routine that helps kids wind down before going to bed.
- looking for signs of sleep deprivation in your children.
- creating a sleep-promoting environment that is cool, quiet and dark.
- limiting or eliminating the use of computers or televisions in children's bedrooms, which can encourage them to stay up past their bedtimes.
- consulting a sleep expert if they are concerned about their children's sleeping habits.
Signs that your child may have a sleep disorder include snoring or noisy breathing at night, problems breathing at night, mouth breathing while awake, excessive daytime sleepiness, irritability or hyperactivity during the day and school difficulties. If you suspect your child has a sleep problem, consider a thorough physical evaluation and comprehensive sleep study at Valley's Pediatric Sleep Disorders and Apnea Center. Performed overnight in one of Valley's child-friendly sleep suites, a sleep study can determine whether your infant, child or adolescent has a sleep disorder that requires medical treatment or a sleep problem that can be addressed with behavioral therapy.
Valley's Pediatric Sleep Disorders and Apnea Center is the only sleep center in New Jersey devoted exclusively to the care of newborns, infants, children and adolescents. For more information about sleep disorders in children or to make an appointment to have your child's sleep problem evaluated, please call 201-447-8152.