Time to Re-Think the “All-Nighter”

CHOC Children's Sleep Disorder CenterOne of the most important investments you can make in your teen’s academic success won’t cost a dime. A good night’s sleep is essential to concentration, learning, memory-retention and problem-solving skills.

Despite the best intentions, students who regularly burn the midnight oil are actually undermining themselves. That’s because the brain needs enough hours of quality sleep in order to perform the essential functions related to learning.

“Studies have shown that people who are sleep-deprived have poor memory retention, and this is essentially what students are doing when they stay up past midnight cramming for a test the next day” said Dr. Neal Nakra, medical director of the CHOC Children’s Sleep Disorder Center. “Deep sleep, particularly Stage III (slow-wave sleep), helps the brain solidify the learning that took place that day.”

The average high-school student needs between eight to 10 hours of sleep every night. That means lights out by 10:15 p.m. for the student who gets up around 6:45 a.m. That’s a minimum eight hours, plus the 30 minutes needed to actually fall asleep.

But it may feel as though there are not enough hours in the day for teens balancing demanding college prep courses with a full slate of after-school activities. Dr. Nakra said he often sees chronic sleep deprivation in teens, particularly in high-achieving students.

Another common cause of poor sleep quality is the use of electronic devices right before bedtime. The light from phones, tablets, computers and electronic games actually stimulates the part of the retina that increases wakefulness.

For a Better Night’s Sleep
Dr. Nakra said the following steps will allow for a good night’s sleep without the need for medication in the vast majority of students:
• Review your teen’s academic and extracurricular schedule — is it simply too much?
• Discuss the importance of healthy sleep with your teen, and support him or her in making the tough decisions about which activities may need to be dropped.
• Set a consistent bedtime schedule, with time to relax before turning out the light.
• Remove all electronic devices from the bedroom.
• Turn off all electronics an hour or two before bedtime.
• Keep the bedroom quiet and cool, not too warm or chilly.
• Avoid caffeine or heavy meals two to three hours before bedtime.
• Be sure your teen gets daily exercise.

Daytime sleepiness, concentration difficulties and dropping grades are clear signs a teen may need more sleep. Moodiness, irritability, depression and even weight gain could also be clues.

School-age children require between nine and 11 hours every night. Dr. Nakra added that in this age group, symptoms of hyperactivity may be related to inadequate sleep. Hyperactivity or excessive daytime sleepiness may also indicate poor sleep quality, especially if associated with other symptoms including loud snoring, mouth breathing, frequent night awakenings or bedwetting.

“These may be symptoms of sleep apnea, which is a treatable sleep disorder,” Dr. Nakra said. “Excessive daytime sleepiness also needs medical attention.”

The CHOC Sleep Disorder Center provides clinical care and testing, including sleep studies, for pediatric sleep problems. Services are available at both our Orange and Mission Viejo hospital campuses. For more information, please call 714-509-8651.

Learn more about CHOC’s Sleep Disorder Center: http://www.choc.org/neuroscience/sleep-disorder-center/

Kick Off the New School Year with Healthy Sleep Habits

Bedtime troubles are very common at some point in most children’s lives. This often disrupts the household, and it prevents a child from getting the amount of sleep they need. This can also affect a child’s performance at school.

20130426_0079newJust in time for back to school, check out the following guidelines to help establish good sleep habits for your children.

Your child should be getting the recommended amount of sleep depending on their age.

Please note these recommendations are only guidelines and not every child will follow them.

Age 1 to 2: 10 to 12 hours at night /  one to four hours during the day

Age 3 to 5: 10 hours at night  /  up to one hour during the day; child may outgrow a nap at this age

Age 6 to 11: 10 hours at night  /  No daytime nap

Tips for establishing good sleep habits

• Older babies and children should have a nap time and bedtime schedule.
• Limit screen time to no more than two hours per day, including time spent in front of smart phones, tablets, computers and TVs. Screens should be turned off at least two hours prior to bedtime.
• Start a quiet time, such as listening to quiet music or reading a book, 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime. TV or other digital screens should not be a part of the quiet time.
• After quiet time, follow a bedtime routine, such as a diaper change, going to the bathroom and brushing teeth.
• Set a time limit for quiet time and the routine so it does not drag on and your child knows what to expect before bedtime.
• Say goodnight, turn off the light and leave the room.
• Security objects, such as a special blanket or stuffed animal, can be part of the bedtime routine.
• It is important for children to be put to bed awake so they learn to fall asleep themselves.

What if my child won’t go to sleep?

Young children can easily fall into bedtime habits that are not always healthy. These suggestions can help when a child does not want to go to bed or is having trouble staying in bed:

• If your child cries, speak calmly and reassure him or her, “You are fine. It is time to go to sleep.” Then leave the room.
• Do not give a bottle or pick up your child.
• Stretch out the time between trips to the room if your child continues. Do not do anything but talk calmly and leave.
• Your child will calm down and go to sleep if you stick to this routine. It may take several nights for your child to get used to the new plan.
• If your child is used to getting a large amount of milk right at bedtime, start to cut down the amount of milk in the bottle by 1/2 to 1 ounce each night until the bottle is empty and then take it away completely.
• Sometimes children get out of their routine of night sleeping because of an illness or travel. Quickly return to good sleep habits when things are back to normal.

Older children sometimes go through a stage when they revert back to bad sleep habits or develop new problems. Here are some tips to help parents with older children who have problems going to bed.

• If your child gets out of bed, take him or her back to bed with a warning that the door will be shut (not locked) for one  or two minutes if he or she gets out of bed.
• If your child stays in bed, the door stays open. If your child gets out of bed, the door is closed for two minutes. Your child can understand that he or she has control of keeping the door open by staying in bed.
• If your child gets out again, shut the door for three to five minutes (no more than five minutes).
• Be consistent. Put your child back in bed each time he or she gets out of bed.
• When your child stays in bed, open the door and give your child praise (for example, “You are doing a great job of staying in bed. Goodnight.”).
• Your child can be rewarded by earning a star on a calendar for staying in bed all night. You can give a special prize for a certain number of stars earned.

If you think your child might have a sleep disorder, talk to their pediatrician about having a CHOC Children’s sleep study. For more on kids and sleep, please click here.

Other articles about healthy sleep:

  • 7 Tips to Help your Child Sleep Better
    All parents know the struggle― it’s late at night, you’ve had a long day, and you’re struggling to get your child to go to sleep. Check out these tips from ...
  • Meet Dr. Anjalee Warrier Galion
    CHOC Children’s wants its patients and families to get to know its specialists. Today, meet Dr. Anjalee Warrier Galion, a pediatric neurologist and sleep specialist. Q: What is your education and ...
  • Does My Child Have a Sleep Disorder?
    Healthy sleep is critical for children and teens. Sleep disorders, such as problems falling asleep and sleep apnea, affect your child’s ability to get the sleep needed for good growth, ...

 

Set the Stage for a Peaceful Night’s Rest

It’s not clear at what age kids begin to dream, but even toddlers may speak about having dreams — pleasant ones and scary ones. While almost every child has an occasional frightening or upsetting dream, nightmares seem to peak during the preschool years when fear of the dark is common. But older kids (and adults) have occasional nightmares, too.

Nightmares aren’t completely preventable, but parents can set the stage for a peaceful night’s rest. Helping kids conquer this common childhood fear also equips them to overcome other scary things that might arise down the road.

Check out our Kids Health patient education resource on choc.org  for some great tips on this common topic.

Related articles:

  • 7 Tips to Help your Child Sleep Better
    All parents know the struggle― it’s late at night, you’ve had a long day, and you’re struggling to get your child to go to sleep. Check out these tips from ...
  • Meet Dr. Anjalee Warrier Galion
    CHOC Children’s wants its patients and families to get to know its specialists. Today, meet Dr. Anjalee Warrier Galion, a pediatric neurologist and sleep specialist. Q: What is your education and ...
  • Does My Child Have a Sleep Disorder?
    Healthy sleep is critical for children and teens. Sleep disorders, such as problems falling asleep and sleep apnea, affect your child’s ability to get the sleep needed for good growth, ...