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Bright Futures

Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

March 31, 2021, Matthew Troester, DO, FAASM
9 Tips to Healthy Sleep for Your Child…And You!
9 Tips to Healthy Sleep for Your Child…And You!

The pandemic has challenged us in several ways, good sleep included. Many youngsters struggle with sleep in these times. Whether vivid dream recall due to an extended REM cycle on account of sleeping in a little longer or new onset insomnia, there are some keys to healthy sleep - an important one being sleep duration. A few years ago, I co-authored a consensus statement on sleep duration in children. We came up with these guidelines:

American Academy of Sleep Medicine Recommended Sleep Duration

  • Infants (4-12 months old): 12-16 hours in 24 hours (includes naps)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years old): 11-14 hours in 24 hours (includes naps)
    • **Most toddlers drop to 1 nap/day around 18 months
  • Preschool (3-5 years old): 10-13 hours in 24 hours (includes naps)
    • **Only about 50% of all 3-year-old still nap
  • School Age (6-12 years old): 9-12 hours
  • Teenagers (13-18 years old): 8-10 hours
  • 18+/Adults: 7-9 hours (ideally 7.5)

When we wrote those, we never imagined every kid in America would be at home for a year, many attending classes in their bedrooms! As of late, many kids are heading back to school. However, if your child is still attending school from home, here’s 9 tips you may find useful:

1. Use the bedroom for sleep ONLY. Online school and ZOOM everything are the new normal and while these have some advantages, doing them in the bedroom during the day is confusing for your body and can create new sleep disturbances. If your child must use the bedroom for school, certainly have her/him stay off the bed and try to adjust the daytime configuration making it distinct from the typical nighttime arrangement.

2. Seek bright light in the morning, ideally outside for at least 20 minutes. Even better, take a brief, brisk walk or exercise in the morning.

3. Despite the randomness of the times and lack of the expected, continue to schedule your sleep. Pick a bedtime and an awakening time and stick to it. Try not to deviate that time more than an hour or so on weekends/vacations.

4. Avoid caffeine after 2 pm.

5. Ear plugs, white/brown/pink noise machines and eye patches can be your friends. If you think they will help, use them.

6. When possible, give yourself 30-60 minutes to “wind down” at night. This is hard for everyone, but you need time to decompress at night and if you can find the time for an hour or so before bed to avoid screen time and stimulating activities, it can be very helpful in promoting sleep. If you must work on a computer in the hour before desired sleep onset, try using a blue light filter on your device.

7. Do not go to bed if you are not tired.

8. Do not stay in bed more than 15-20 minutes if you are not sleepy. The worst thing someone who has trouble sleeping can do is stay in bed when not asleep. If you are not asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do some other activity (reading, quiet music or other non-stimulating activity) until you feel sleepy and want to try again. Repeat this process until you are successful in falling asleep.

9. The snooze button is not your friend. Just set an alarm for when you must be up.

About the Sleep Program

The Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children’s Sleep Program continues to grow. It started in 2009 with 1 bed.  Over the years, it expanded to 6 beds. In 2019, we completed 1,505 studies and in 2020, 1,601 studies (a new record!). The program anticipates growth to 14 beds in the next few years with labs in the east and west valley to better serve our community. The division has two medical providers, Rupali Drewek, MD, of Pulmonology, and me, Matthew Troester, DO, of Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children’s, who serve as co-directors of the program. The Otolaryngology group, Drs. Sharon Gnagi and Patrick Schleffler, are also active participants and co-members of the new multidisciplinary complex sleep medicine clinic. We are grateful for your support. Our motto remains, “If they snore, learn more.”

Most sleep disorders in the pediatric population are underdiagnosed and we hope to remedy that in the Valley. To that end, we remain the only American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM)-accredited, EXCLUSIVELY PEDIATRIC sleep laboratory in the Valley and one of the few this side of the Mississippi. We are very proud of the care we deliver.

If these tips are not enough and your child is still having trouble sleeping, visit our website or give us a call at 602-933-KIDS (5437). Better sleep might just be one click or phone call away.

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