If Your Child Isn’t Getting Enough Sleep – He May Have Other Unhealthy Habits

Did you know that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that children 6 to 12 years of age sleep 9-12 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health?  And, teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8-10 hours?

Recently published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, a new study conducted among more than 177,000 students suggests that insufficient sleep duration is associated with an unhealthy lifestyle profile among children and adolescents.

The study states, “Results show that insufficient sleep duration was associated with unhealthy dietary habits such as skipping breakfast (adjusted odds ratio 1.30), fast-food consumption (OR 1.35) and consuming sweets regularly (OR 1.32). Insufficient sleep duration also was associated with increased screen time (OR 1.26) and being overweight/obese (OR 1.21).”

“Approximately 40 percent of schoolchildren in the study slept less than recommended,” said senior author Labros Sidossis, PhD, distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Health at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. “Insufficient sleeping levels were associated with poor dietary habits, increased screen time and obesity in both genders.”

“The most surprising finding was that aerobic fitness was associated with sleep habits,” said Sidossis. “In other words, better sleep habits were associated with better levels of aerobic fitness. We can speculate that adequate sleep results in higher energy levels during the day. Therefore, children who sleep well are maybe more physically active during the day and hence have higher aerobic capacity.”

So, how can a parent encourage good sleep habits in their children?

  • Make sure your child doesn’t eat a heavy meal before bedtime.  Snacks should be eaten at least 30 minutes before bedtime to ensure he or she has time to burn off calories and extra sugar.  And, remember, no caffeine or sugary snacks!
  • Regulate.  I know that you’ve heard this a million times, but keep your child’s sleep routine consistent.  Establish a consistent and relaxing bedtime routine that lasts between 20 and 30 minutes and ends in your child’s bedroom.  Avoid scary stories or TV shows. It’s better to read a favorite book every night than a new one because it’s familiar.
  • Teach your child calming techniques so the worries of the day – or about tomorrow’s test – don’t interfere with his sleeping.  If your child has a tendency to worry, ensure homework is done at least one hour before bedtime and that he has a chance to ask you to proofread it.  The earlier homework is completed, the more opportunity he has to ask you for help and the less worried he will be during the night.  Create a nightly study routine and stick to it!

I wish you good luck and sweet dreams tonight!

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