As Texas kids head back to school, the importance of sleep is being seen in homes throughout Austin and central Texas. Kids have spent the past summer staying up late and sleeping in, and now that early school wake times are needed, kids are dragging themselves along for morning classes. But what many parents don't know is that their children's sleep is just as important as their own. Lack of sleep is responsible for poor grades, poor academic performance, behavioral problems, and if left-untreated, long-term health complications.
Doctors and researches have known for many years that poor sleep leads to poor health in adults, including increasing risks for hypertension, heart disease, obesity, strokes, cancer, Alzheimer's, and death. Sleep study research performed in a sleep lab can actually induce diabetes symptoms in otherwise healthy adults due only to prolonged fragmented sleep.
New scientific studies are demonstrating that poor sleep in children is causally linked to:
- driving accidents (teens)
- drug use
- poor grades
- attention deficit disorder
The brain requires sleep to remain healthy and functional. Restorative sleep includes delta sleep (or slow-wave sleep) and REM sleep, and for adults composes 40-50% of total sleep. In children, restorative sleep composes 50-75% of total sleep and is necessary for correct physiological and cognitive development. The increased usage of blue-light emitting electronics (smart phones, tablets, iPads, Kindles, laptops) and stimulant medications (ADD/ADHD) in adolescents and teenagers has seen a correspondingly dangerous increase in sleep deprivation and lack of restorative sleep in America's youth.
As with diet and exercise, children often emulate their parents. Adults with late-night stimulant, caffeine, sugar, and smart phone usage are just as likely to have children with the same problems. Sleep deprivation is commonly associated with men since they are statistically more likely to have sleep apnea, the most common sleep disorder. However, research indicates that women are more likely to be sleep deprived. Sleep apnea is increasingly common in overweight and obese women and post-menopausal women. Insomnia is very common in women. Restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder are frequently seen in female patients, as well. And the increased stresses and obligations unique to women can incur greater sleep fragmentation than in men.
For adolescents, adjusting their circadian rhythm to a sleep cycle for the school year usually requires discontinuation of electronics (including televisions, computers, smart phones, and tablet readers) several hours before bedtime. Bedtime (with lights off) should be gradually adjusted backward 30 minutes every week for several weeks prior to the start of school. The child's wake times should be adjusted at the same rate, too. Remember that younger kids need 10-12 hours sleep daily and teens about 9 hours.
Concerned you or your children aren't getting enough sleep? Call Austin's top-rated sleep lab, SleepSomatics. We have been helping parents, teens, and kids throughout central Texas get a better night's healthy, restorative sleep since 1999.
For more information, read this SleepSomatics article's sources: