Category: Children Sleeping
As we head into the school year, especially during this uncertain time, we thought it was a good time to talk about sleep.
Sleep is critical for many reasons. We are sure you have heard how important it is for growth and development and for encoding new memories. We also know not getting enough sleep can contribute to inattention, trouble focusing, and mood changes.
Right now, kids and adults are dealing with a lot of uncertainty. It can be extremely helpful for children and teens to have a consistent routine.
How much sleep do children need?
Of course, every child is different! But here are some general guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Bedtime at our house has moved later and later, how do we move it back?
It is common for bedtimes to shift over the summer when it is lighter later and we don’t have to get up early for school. This is especially true this year since summer was preceded by several months of remote school. We recommend gradually shifting your child’s sleep schedule earlier.
Here are some strategies:
- Starting a few weeks before school, wake your child up a little earlier each morning (try 15 minutes) and get ready for bed a little earlier each night
- Get morning sunlight, this helps reset our biological clock
- Try to get some active time each day
- Put away screens 1 hour before bedtime
- Limit snacks and sweets a few hours before bedtime
- Establish a consistent routine that you can repeat each night so your child knows what to expect
- Have a family discussion about the sleep plan so that your child will understand the new routine.
Why are screens bad for sleep?
Electronic devices such as tablets and phones emit an artificial blue light, which tricks the body into thinking it is daytime. Blue light suppresses your body’s natural release of melatonin. Melatonin induces sleep as part of your circadian rhythm, your body’s internal clock. Using screens later at night disrupts your body’s natural sleep drive.
We encourage parents to establish a bedtime routine that does not include screens. Instead encourage other quiet activities such as reading a print book or journaling.
Do you have any specific advice for teens?
Sleep is especially important but also difficult for teens. The biological clock in teenagers is shifted later, meaning they often have trouble initiating sleep as early as would like. Here are some tips especially for them:
- Have a conversation with your teen about sleep and getting back on track for school. Try to get their buy in, help them understand why you are doing this.
- Lots of teens are sleeping in late this summer; start getting them up earlier to help them adjust to an earlier bedtime.
Advice for teens (continued)
- Set an electronics curfew and store phones outside of the bedroom overnight. This is a great habit for teens to establish. We are all addicted to our phones but we want to protect our teens from this as much as possible.
- Use an alarm clock that is not their phone! A traditional alarm clock is a worthwhile investment. They even make mobile ones, for hard to wake teens (check out Clocky).
- Make your teen’s bed only for sleep. The brain will associate the bed with being awake if your teen spends the day lounging or doing remote school there. If possible, try to have your teen do their schoolwork in a different location.
What if I have other questions or these tips are not working?
We are here to help! These tips are just a starting point. We are happy to discuss your individual child and family. Please give your physician or PA a call!
Our weekly newborn group is a time for new mothers to come together to share their experiences and learn from our group facilitators, Willows physicians, and each other. We also enjoy having guest speakers who present on subjects that moms have shown an interest in. One of our regular guest speakers is Tina Botticelli, a pediatric physical therapist from Norwalk Hospital. At a recent meeting Tina joined our newborn group to discuss infant motor development, and demonstrated recommended ways to position and hold babies to support their emerging physical skills. By encouraging proper head and neck development, parents can also reduce the likelihood that their baby will develop occipital plagiocephaly, or flattening on one side of the back of the head.
As part of teaching about infant development, the physicians, PA’s, and nurses at Willows want to remind parents and all caretakers about the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for sleep safety. While tummy time is important for infants to develop strong muscles, tummy time is only for infants who are awake and being watched. And please remember, healthy babies are safest when sleeping on their backs at nighttime and during naps. Back to sleep, tummy to play!
If your high-school-aged teen has struggled getting up for school in the morning, you are not alone. What has been commonly observed, that adolescents’ sleep cycle shifts as they hit puberty so that adolescents become night owls, have trouble waking up in the morning, and then experience excessive sleepiness during the day – has recently received national attention as a public health issue.
With the benefit of neuroscience we now know that teens aren’t just lazy; their natural sleep cycles make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11:00 p.m. and wake up before 8:00 a.m. This is because adolescents’ biological sleep-wake cycle begins to shift two to three hours later at the start of puberty. This sleep-phase shift affects teenagers around the world, regardless of parenting methods, technology use, or sleep hygiene. Even adolescents in pre-industrial cultures without cell phones or computers develop the same sleep-cycle delay.
“Many parents who come to me share the fact that, well before they end up in my office, they have read a pile of sleep advice books without getting results,” says a local sleep consultant in Westport, CT. “As a result, they often worry there is no real solution for the problems they face with their child’s sleep.”
However, the specialist adds, “The good news is, with the several hundred families I’ve worked with, this has never been the case. The problem isn’t with their child – it’s with the source they’re using for help with getting a child to sleep.” Read More
All of the doctors here at Willows are parents, and we’ve all experienced the jitters and uncertainty that can be part of becoming a parent for the first time. Taking care of newborns can be nerve-racking for sure. But with a little information and good parenting practices, we can help you ensure that your little one will be healthy and happy!
That said, one of new parents’ biggest fears is often sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). That term is applied to infant deaths that cannot be explained. Another term, sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) is used to describe any unexpected death from SIDS or causes such as suffocation, entrapment, arrhythmia and trauma. Today we want to address SIDS and the subset of SUIDs that occur during sleep.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently revised and updated its recommendations to reduce the risk of SIDS and sleep-related suffocation, asphyxia and entrapment in infants. Some, like getting regular prenatal care and voiding smoke, alcohol and drugs during pregnancy, are applicable before the baby is born. The remaining recommendations apply to infants up to one year of age and should be used consistently until your child turns one.