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New Guidelines For Children's Health Stress Importance Of Getting Enough Sleep

By Kristi Pahr

Often, new parents log and record every nap and every bedtime in order to stay on top of their child's sleep schedule. But for many, by the time children are in elementary school, parents tend to worry less. Between school, homework, extracurricular activities, sports practices, and family dinners, bedtimes become later while wake up times become earlier. It's easy to understand how the focus can transition away from sleep and onto other obligations. But studies suggest that making sure children and teenagers get enough sleep is a serious priority, as it can have both long and short-term impacts on their health.

According to The National Sleep Foundation, kids who regularly get less sleep at night also have a harder time falling asleep. Unfortunately, these children are also less likely to take naps during the day, and are more likely to feel tired or sleepy during the daytime. These circular problems feed into each other and result in children who aren't getting as much rest as their bodies need. And as research suggests, the sleep health and patterns children develop when they're young often carry into their teen years, where possible negative side effects continue to mount.

For example, a separate National Sleep Foundation study shows that by the time they become teens, children who get inadequate sleep are more likely to struggle with concentration, poor academic performance, car accidents, anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts. In 2014, the American Pediatric Association even called teen sleep deprivation a “public health epidemic.” This means that sleep impacts more than just energy level, and can, in fact, play a huge role in how kids and teens function overall.

In younger children, inadequate sleep has been linked to behavioral and cognitive problems. Dr. Elsie Taveras told Reuters Health, “Children who aren’t getting the recommended amount of sleep have more difficulties with attention, with emotional control, with reasoning, with problem-solving, and also have behavioral problems.”