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Back to School, Back to Sleep

Fixing your children's sleep problems may improve their grades and their behavior.

From Elementary to High School, Sleep Problems Are Pervasive and Widespread

You may be surprised to learn how prevalent sleep problems are. In studies of elementary school-age children, nearly 40% showed some kind of sleep problem, and 10% had daytime sleepiness.

Adolescence: Sleeplessness impacts personal health and public safety

With increasing freedom from parental control, social activities and academic challenges, sleep is not exactly a high priority for adolescents, and the sleep time most teenagers get is insufficient: the average is under 7 1/2 hours, with only 15% sleeping 8 1/2 hours or more on school nights and more than 25% typically sleeping 6 1/2 hours or less. Up to half of adolescents reported at least occasional difficulty falling or staying asleep, with up to 13% experiencing chronic and severe insomnia.

Sleepless adolescents are not just tired teenagers. They are at increased risk for negative moods, impaired memory, motivation and ability to think and make good judgments. Drowsy driving together with "microsleeps" (i.e., unintended sleep episodes) add up to increased automobile accidents, of which teens are heavily represented.

Late to Bed, Early to Rise, Makes Us Cranky, Moody and Cry
The first day of school often initiates a cycle of poor sleep and problematic behaviors that may be difficult to break. It goes something like this:

  1. Late Bedtimes, Early Start Times: Late summertime bedtimes collide with early school start times; so kids start the new school year being sleep-deprived.
  2. Sleep Debt Builds: Each day they lose more sleep, building up a "sleep debt" that, like all debts, must be paid-off.
  3. Weekend Catch-up - There's a Catch: Now comes the weekend, and we feel good that our child sleeps late, catching-up on all that sleep. But wait just a minute - there's a catch to that catching-up: it is actually a big red flag that your child is not getting enough sleep, and late weekend sleeping actually perpetuates the whole dysfunctional sleep pattern.

    Interestingly, a study in which school start times were moved from 7:15 a.m. to 8:40 a.m., resulted in children getting an hour more sleep each night and improved attendance.

    Late-night-type, rebellious adolescents are predisposed to this pattern and often complain that it is very hard to fall asleep, easier to fall asleep if bedtimes are later, hard to wake in the morning, late to school and sleep late on weekends.

    Sound Familiar?

What to Look for in Your Child: Signs, Symptoms and Typical Tactics

Results from the National Sleep Foundation's 2004 Sleep in America poll may (or may not!) surprise you:

  • Infants most often seem sleepy or overtired during the day (29%) and/or wake too early in the morning (21%) at least a few days a week.
  • Toddlers most often stall about going to bed (32%), resist going to bed at bedtime (24%) and/or seem sleepy or overtired during the day (24%) at least a few days or nights a week.
  • Preschoolers most often stall about going to bed at bedtime (52%), resist going to bed at bedtime (30%), seem sleepy or overtired during the day (26%), snore (19%) and/or have difficulty waking in the morning (19%) at least a few days or nights a week.
  • School-aged children are most likely to stall about going to bed (42%), have difficulty waking in the morning (29%) and/or snore (18%) at least a few days or nights a week.

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Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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You say you are able to function well with fewer than seven hours of sleep. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

Since you usually get too little sleep, please talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have insomnia or other conditions affecting your sleep.

Sleep deprivation can have both short- and long-term consequences. Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's not surprising you feel that you're not functioning at your best today. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

Since you usually get too little sleep, please talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have difficulty sleeping, have insomnia, or have other sleep disorders.

Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's not surprising you feel that you're not functioning at your best today. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

It's good that you usually do get more sleep, since sleep deprivation can have both short- and long-term consequences. Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. And if you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

You say you are able to function well with fewer than seven hours of sleep. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

It's good that you usually do get more sleep because sleep deprivation can have both short- and long-term consequences. Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. And if you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's not surprising you feel that you're not functioning at your best today. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

Since you usually get less sleep, please talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have difficulty sleeping or have insomnia or other sleep disorders.

Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's wonderful that you got a good night's sleep last night. Many people struggle to do so. Having a good sleep routine often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health. Whether your sleep routine involves taking a warm bath, reading a book, or meditating, it's important to keep your bedtime and routine consistent every night and wake up around the same time every morning.

Click here to read more about the importance of sleep. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's unfortunate you're not functioning at your best today. You say you had a good quantity of sleep last night, but maybe the quality of your sleep is not as good as it could be? Having a good sleep routine — including a consistent bedtime and wake time — often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health. Since you usually sleep this amount, if you often aren't feeling your best, you should consider talking to your doctor. Could you have an underlying condition? Are you feeling anxious or depressed? Have you taken medication that disrupted your sleep? Do you or could you have sleep apnea? Or do you naturally require a little bit more sleep?

Although sleep is crucial for optimal health, some research suggests that sleeping too much can also have negative consequences. Learn more about sleep. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's unfortunate you're not functioning at your best today. You say you had a good quantity of sleep last night, but maybe the quality of your sleep is not as good as it could be? Having a good sleep routine — including a consistent bedtime and wake time — often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health. Since you usually sleep longer, if you often aren't feeling your best, you should consider talking to your doctor. Could you have an underlying condition? Are you feeling anxious or depressed? Have you taken medication that disrupted your sleep? Do you or could you have sleep apnea? Or do you naturally require a little bit more sleep?

Although sleep is crucial for optimal health, some research suggests that sleeping too much can also have negative consequences. Learn more about sleep. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's wonderful that you got a good night's sleep last night. Many people struggle to do so. Having a good sleep routine often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health. Whether your sleep routine involves taking a warm bath, reading a book, or meditating, it's also important to keep bedtime consistent and wake up around the same time every morning.

Although sleep is crucial for optimal health, some research suggests that sleeping too much can have negative consequences. Learn more about sleep. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's unfortunate you're not functioning at your best today. You say you had a good quantity of sleep last night, but maybe the quality of your sleep is not as good as it could be? Having a good sleep routine — including a consistent bedtime and waking up at the same time — often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health.

Since you usually get less sleep, please talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have insomnia, another sleep disorder, or conditions affecting your sleep.

Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's wonderful that you got a good night's sleep last night. Many people struggle to do so. Having a good sleep routine often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health.

Since you usually get less sleep, talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have insomnia or another sleep disorder or conditions affecting your sleep.

Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

SOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Effect of short sleep duration on daily activities--United States, 2005-2008. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2011; 60:239.

Carskadon, MA, Dement, WC. Normal Human Sleep: An Overview. In: Principles and Practices of Sleep Medicine, Fifth, Kryger, MH, Roth, et al. (Eds), Elsevier Saunders, St. Louis, MO 2011. p.16.

Harvard University: "Sleep, Performance, and Public Safety."

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