Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Sleep in the news

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The National Sleep Foundation issued an alert this week reminding parents about the importance of sleep. There was reminder to help younger kids get the sleep they need on Halloween including these tips:

  • Let the Fun Begin... Early!: Get an early start on Halloween activities to maximize the time your children get to be out having fun while still getting to bed at a reasonable hour. Start trick or treating in the late afternoon; it will soon be dark out anyway.
  • Moderation, Moderation, Moderation: Pay close attention to the amount of candy children ingest. Too much candy may lead to stomach aches and illness during the night. In addition, many soft drinks and some chocolates contain caffeine that may keep them awake.
  • Nix Nightmares: Watch your child closely to ensure that he/she is not anxious. If he/she seems nervous or frightened, spend some extra time comforting him or her. Do not decorate a younger child’s room with potentially frightening images (ghosts, tombstones, witches). Note, however, that nightmares and nighttime fears are common disorders with children. Sleep deprivation, anxiety and changes to a child’s sleep routine may increase the likelihood of these and other sleep related issues.
  • Manage Expectations: Discuss the plan for the day and put an emphasis on the fact that you will be keeping to the regular sleep schedule, if only because school starts at the regular time the next day. After an evening of trick or treating and parties, schedule for follow up fun like sorting candy for another day. This will give kids something to look forward to.
  • Wind Down Time: Naturally, kids will be excited. Allow enough wind down time and follow normal sleep habits (such as a bath or shower before bed and story time) to help your child settle down to sleep after an exciting evening.
  • Maintain Regular Sleep Schedules: Keep normal sleep routines and try to stick with your child’s usual bedtime (remember, your child will be extra tired after the time change since it will actually be later at night than before the time change). A tip for adjusting to standard time is to alter bed times slightly over several days rather than make the change all at once. Have children stay up approximately 15 minutes past their normal bedtime each day starting on the Thursday night before standard daylight time begins.

The alert also included a link to a Newsday.com article by Brittany Davies about early start times and the sleep deprivation it instills in teens. I am surprised that more schools are not allowing for later start times for teens, which would also keep them in school longer in the afternoon, prime trouble-finding hours when parents are at work and teens tend to be unsupervised.

Finally, the alert discussed the high prevalence of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) in overweight children and teens. It seems that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea were linked to obesity. OSA occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat are not able to keep the airway open and central sleep apnea when the brain fails to send the signal to breathe during sleep.

The health consequences of sleep apnea include elevated risk for developing diabetes, hypertension, and depression. The primary symptom of sleep disorders is excessive sleepiness, which is linked to higher rates of behavior problems as well as education problems. Parents should be aware of the sleep problems associated with weight gain and address these concerns with their pediatrician.

Resources:
Sleep Smart Tips for Teens
We're Talking Teen Health

Photo credit: mathwizxp

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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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