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Children and Sleep

Importance of Sleep for Children
Sleep is an essential part of early brain development and takes time to develop. In general, children have little difficulty in initiating sleep and staying asleep on their own. The ability to learn this occurs in infancy at about six weeks of age. Ninety-five percent of infants in the first three to six months cry upon awakening which necessitates parental soothing for a return to sleep but by 12 months, 70 percent of children are able to soothe themselves back to sleep.

On average, newborn infants sleep 16 to 18 hours per day in three- to four-hour cyclic periods. By age 6 months, an infant may sleep as much as six continuous hours at night with the need for one feeding in the middle of the night. By 1 year of age, a child sleeps 14 to 15 hours a day with a mid-morning and late afternoon nap (or one mid-afternoon nap). During the second year, a child sleeps 12 hours a day with only the mid-afternoon nap. By 4-5 years, the child sleeps 10 to 12 hours at night and has eliminated the nap.

Sleep and sleep patterns are extremely important for both behavioral development and the sleep of parents. Good sleep in infants and children is also important for physical growth and school performance.

Creating consistent routines, setting limits and positive reinforcement for good habits goes a long way to bedtime success and behavioral independence during the night. In some cases, the sleep cycle does not develop properly and certain sleep disorders or problems can occur.

Sleep Problems in Children
Sleep apnea for adults receives a lot of attention in the media, but less attention has been given to sleep apnea in children. In fact, seven to 10 percent of children snore all night, every night, and one percent actually have problems breathing during sleep. Children with apnea or difficulty staying asleep may adopt odd or peculiar sleep positions to keep their airway open and this could be a sign of a breathing issue. They may have night sweats, growth issues, daytime sleepiness, irritability, aggressive behavior or learning difficulties.

Adolescents actually need nine to 10 hours of sleep per night but usually average less than seven. A chronic sleep debt can negatively affect grades and behavior. Fifty-five percent of all auto accidents due to falling asleep occur in drivers younger than 25 years of age. Due to body clock shifts that occur in adolescence, some teenagers naturally fall asleep in the early to mid-morning hours and are not fully alert until the early afternoon hours.

This delayed sleep phase syndrome can seriously affect school performance and family interactions.

Appointments can be made to speak with any of our physicians by calling the sleep lab, however you will need a referral to have a study or other tests performed, which can be obtained from your primary care physician.

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