Child therapists should make sure that they always talk to their clients and their client’s parents about their sleep habits. Adequate sleep is essential for development, learning, and physical and mental health. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) has identified numerous consequences of poor sleep among children and adolescents. These include behavior problems, impaired learning and school performance, mood and emotional problems, and poor health, including obesity. The NSF also reports that an adolescents’ lack of sleep may be related to high-risk behaviors such as substance use, suicidal behaviors, and drowsy driving. Greater media use in teens has been linked to a higher body mass index, largely because of reduced sleep time.
Unfortunately, far too many American children are not getting enough sleep. The NSF guidelines suggest that children ages 6 to 10 get 10 to 11 hours of sleep per night, and children 11 and older should get 8.5 to 9.5 hours per night. In a poll completed by the NSF parent estimates tended to fall short of these recommendations. Average parent estimates were 8.9 hours for children ages 6 to 10, 8.2 hours for 11 and 12 year olds, 7.7 hours for 13 and 14 year olds and 7.1 hours for teens ages 15 through 17. Electronic devices are one of the primary culprits contributing to reduced sleep. Parents of both children and teens need to actively monitor and regulate the availability of electronics at bed time. Of course being over-scheduled and excessive homework are also significant culprits. Parents who model good sleep habits and provide a consistent bedtime structure tend to have children and teens who get more sleep.
The NSF report offers these ten recommendations for establishing good sleep habits:
- Make sleep a healthy priority in your family’s busy schedule.
2. Set appropriate and consistent bedtimes for yourself and your children and stick to them.
3. Know how your child is using electronics in the bedroom. Create a plan for appropriate use at night and set boundaries about use before and after bedtime.
4. Educate yourself and your child on how light from electronic device screens can interfere with sleep.
5. Talk to your child about the importance of sleep for health and well-being.
6. Talk to your child’s teacher(s) about your child’s alertness during the day. Let your child’s teacher(s) know that you want to be made aware of any reports of your child falling asleep in school.
7. Remember that you are a role model to your child; set a good example.
8. Create a sleep-supportive bedroom and home environment, dimming the lights prior to bedtime and controlling the temperature (in most cases, temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit and below 54 degrees will disrupt sleep).
9. Try to encourage activities such as reading or listening to music before bedtime instead of watching TV, playing video games or surfing the web.
10. Make sure children’s activities, including homework, can be completed without interfering with bedtimes
The full NSF article can be found at http://tinyurl.com/zjdt6s4.