Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep On School Nights?

By on October 21, 2011

Child Getting Enough SleepDo you think that your child gets enough sleep on school nights? Chances are, if you have a high-schooler at home, he or she does not. A recent survey finds that 70% of US high school students do not get enough sleep, which is linked to a variety of health-risk behaviors.

The research for the study was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Students participating in the 2007 national Youth Risk Behavior Study were asked to report on how many hours of sleep they achieve on the average school night. Just about 3/4ths of the teens reported insufficient sleep which was defined as less than 8 hours a night.

While it is pretty obvious that lack of sleep causes difficulty in concentration the next day, leading to learning ability deficits, not getting enough ZZZ’s has other consequences as well. This study indicates that those teens who report insufficient sleep are more likely to participate in health-risk behaviors including physical inactivity, poor dietary choices, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, using marijuana, and being sexually active.

“Many adolescents are not getting the recommended hours of sleep they need on school nights. Insufficient sleep is associated with participation in a number of health-risk behaviors including substance use, physical fighting, and serious consideration of suicide attempt,” Lela McKnight-Eily of the CDC said in a statement.

Of course, poor sleep isn’t limited to teens. Younger children have also been found to sleep less than the recommended number of hours per night. The National Sleep Foundation found that elementary school aged children who do not achieve 9 to 10 hours per night are more likely to have lower grade point averages and have an increased risk for ADHD-like symptoms, including hyperactivity and impulsivity. There is also a link between lack of sleep and childhood obesity.

College students, especially those away from home for the first time, are also at risk for insufficient sleep. Roommates, dormitory noise, late-night snacks, and social opportunities can all affect the time that students hit the hay and they tend to get less than 7 hours of sleep per night, notes Kathryn Orzech, a postdoctoral fellow in sleep research at Brown University.

To prepare children and teens for adequate sleep during the school year, National Sleep Foundation offers the following tips:

  • While it is too late to start the school year sleep routine early (like in August before school actually starts), you can still introduce a gradual change in a child’s sleep schedule one or two weeks time, such as going to bed 15-30 minutes earlier each night.
  • Encourage good sleep habits for all family members. These should include a nightly bedtime routine such as 15-30 minutes of relaxing, quiet activities immediately prior to bedtime, as well as regular (and appropriate) bed and wake up times.
  • Create a special comfortable place for sleep. The bedroom (or other sleeping quarters) should be cool, quiet, and dark. Televisions and computers should be placed in another room. Some children and teens find soft music helps them relax and get ready to fall asleep.
  • Achieve a balanced schedule. Identify and prioritize activities that allow for downtime and sufficient sleep time. Help students avoid an overloaded schedule that can led to stress and difficulty coping, which contribute to poor health and sleep problems.
  • Look for signs of sleep problems. The most common sleep problems in children include difficulty falling asleep, nighttime awakenings, stalling and resisting going to bed. Snoring, which can be a symptom of sleep apnea, is prevalent among children and teens.

Source: Denise Reynolds, Examiner

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