Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Who needs sleep?

Recently when I doing some research for our upcoming workshop on diabetes, I found some additional information about children and sleep. I was aware that many children do not get enough sleep (it seems that in our constantly "on-the-go" society, sleep often gets put on the back burner and is a low priority). But what really surprised me was all the physical results that take place in the body when you don't get enough sleep!

Here are some of the highlights:
A good night's sleep is necessary for healthy brain functioning. It also helps children to heal and grow. The amount of sleep a child gets also affects their moods, behavior, and ability to learn. Sleep deprived children may become grumpy, cry easily, and be more accident-prone.

The most surprising studies are the ones which have linked the risk of obesity with not getting enough sleep. Getting too little sleep is thought to contribute to obesity by increasing caloric intake due to hormonal secretion. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to the development of pre-diabetes. I am sure you are aware of the current obesity epidemic among our children. Making sure they get enough sleep is another way we can help them maintain a healthy weight.

How much sleep do kids need? Often, adults make the mistake of thinking that their children need the same amount of sleep as they do. They don't realize how much sleep young children need to be healthy. Doctors and other experts have recommended the following amounts of sleep for young children:

Newborns 11-18 hours
Infants 14-15 hours
Toddlers 12-14 hours
Preschoolers 11-13 hours
School-Age 10-11 hours

Here are some tips for good sleep "hygiene":

1) Establish a regular bedtime routine
2) About one hour before bed: Engage in relaxing, non-alerting activity (such as reading-avoid the tv and computer). Don't drink or eat too much close to bedtime.
3) Make the sleep environment conducive to sleep: cooler temperatures, dark, and quiet.
4) Watch out for caffeine in soft drinks (or other drinks). Caffeine should not be a part of children's diets and can interfere with sleep.

Sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Do your part by helping children establish good sleep practices!

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