Experts Release New Sleep Guidelines For Babies, Children, And Teens Based On Age

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has released their first ever official recommendations for how much sleep young people need based on age.

The new sleep guidelines are broken down into five different categories ranging from 4-months-old to 18-years-old.

Wendy Hall, UBC sleep specialist, nursing professor and a member of the 13-person panel, says the new sleep guidelines are important because lack of sleep is a growing trend across people of all ages but especially for people under 18 years.

“Most parents and care providers don’t really know how much sleep children should be getting,” she said.

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Dr. Tracey Bridger, a member of the Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS), says people do not take sleep seriously and that a good sleeping pattern is as important to an individual’s health as eating well and exercise is. These new guidelines align recommendations for physical activity, sedentary behavior, and sleep, and for the first time represent these behaviors as an integrated and single recommendation.

Dr. Hilary Myron, a pediatric sleep specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa says that the new sleep guidelines are “absolutely critical” to health in young people.

“Sleep is absolutely integral to physical growth as well as development, cognitive and emotional development.”

A decent night’s sleep has been proven to improve memory, promote weight loss, aid mental health, attention span, behavior and physical health, yet more and more people are not getting enough z’s. On the other end of the spectrum, a lack of sleep encourages obesity, depression, hypertension, moodiness, injuries, and a short attention span.

Dr. Stuart F. Chan of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, helped write the new American Academy of Sleep Medicine guidelines and said that sleeping problems are directly related to poor grades in children.

“Sleep apnea is associated with poor school performance, mood and behavior problems, misdiagnosis of ADHD and, if severe, potentially heart problems,” he said.

Despite the pros and cons of having a good night’s sleep, it is estimated that at least a quarter of all 12-year-olds get less than the recommended nine hours of sleep per night and the statistics get worse with age.

The amount of people suffering with insomnia and the young age that the health issue is starting is alarming, says Chan. Insomnia affects one in three preschoolers and one in four adolescents.

“[Insomnia is associated with] poor school performance, increased mood and health problems and risk of self-harm and suicidal ideation,” said Chan.

The biggest way to solve the sleep problem and follow the new guidelines is to make sure you and your children are getting to bed early enough and that there is no stimulation. Light emitting devices such as iPads, iPhones, and televisions should all be kept outside of the sleeping space.

“Frequently, a child or teen will not go to bed early enough or they are awakened too early. The reasons for this are varied, but revolve around family dynamics, social issues and, in the case of teens, school start times,” said Chan.

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Having a child that is always tired may go deeper then just not getting enough sleep and it is important to be able to distinguish the two. Dr. Dan Combs, an assistant professor of sleep medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson said these new guidelines should help.

“Given the increasingly busy schedules of children, particularly teenagers, parents can use the guidelines to determine if their child even has enough opportunity (time in bed) to get the recommended amount of sleep to optimize their health,” he said.

“Likewise, if children are getting the right amount of sleep, but are still sleepy during the day, or if they are sleeping more than recommended, this should raise a red flag that there may be an underlying sleep disorder that is affecting the child’s health.”

The new sleeping guidelines do not include adults but according to the Sleep Foundation adults need 7-9 hours a night.

New Sleep guidelines are:

  • Infants four months to one year of age: 12-16 hours, including naps
  • Children 1- to 2-years-old: 11-14 hours, including naps
  • Children 3- to 5-years-old: 10-13 hours, including naps
  • Children 6- to 12-years-old: 9-12 hours
  • Teenagers 13- to 18-years-old: 8-10 hours
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[Photo by Anna Grigorjeva/Shutterstock]