A new study shows kids today need more rest.
Researchers at the American Academy of Pediatrics surveyed parents of nearly 50,000 U.S. children, ages 6 to 17, and found less than half are getting the recommended minimum of nine hours of sleep most weeknights.
Liz Douce, a pediatrician at Southwestern Medical Clinic, said their clinic regularly sees teenagers and preteens who aren’t getting enough sleep.
“We’ve run into it almost daily,” Douce said. “A parent may not be aware of the actual number of hours until further questioning.”
Only 48 percent of school-age children in the U.S. are getting enough sleep, according to new research.
Part of the problem is electronics and school starting early, along with many teenagers just being on a different sleep schedule.
Whatever the reason, doctors say it’s a problem.
“In our preteen and teen population, the biggest problem is the screen time,” Douce said. “Cell phones are a big player with that. Kids wanting to Instagram and Snapchat before bed makes it difficult to fall asleep. It’s the blue light from phones that makes it harder to fall asleep.”
Douce said the second factor for a lot of middle school and high school students is they tend to start the day too early.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it’s recommended that students start no sooner than 8:30 a.m.
“At this stage, it’s an ongoing battle,” Douce said of the conversation regarding moving school start times back.
Younger children, ages 3 to 5, need even more sleep – 10 to 13 hours per night.
Douce said there are two categories worth of side effects. One of those categories includes impaired performance.
“That comes out in different manifestations,” she said. “Children who don’t get their needed sleep may have a decreased attention span and problem-solving capabilities. Among toddlers, you might see some emotional outbursts.”
The second category involves more physical symptoms of sleep deprivation.
Among the major side effects are increased rates of depression, anxiety and obesity.
Douce said it also lowers the immune system, making people more likely to get sick.
“It affects the body in all sorts of ways,” she said. “If this is over several months, it could make the child appear to have ADHD. That’s why we always have to dig through their sleep situation.”
The deep sleep reached each night is when the brain reorganizes and retains the information it has absorbed from the day, Douce said.
It’s the biggest reason children are required to sleep more at a younger age, because the deep sleep period is important for kids who are learning speech.
In general, Douce said she recommends putting away all screens an hour before bedtime to get the body in the right state of mind. Other steps might include creating an environment more conducive to sleeping.
“That means more dimmed light, no loud music. If it’s quieter and darker, the body will be in the mood for sleep,” Douce said. “Having a set bedtime routine is beneficial. Kids tend to want to stay up late on the weekends, but that’s not always the best.”
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