Expert perspective: New sleep guidelines for children announced

Sleep is critical to the overall growth and development of infants, children and teens. But how much sleep is enough? The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recently released a set of guidelines that outlines how much sleep children should be receiving at different ages.

Infants 4 to 12 months – 12 to 16 hours of sleep every 24 hours (including naps)

Children 1 to 2 years – 11 to 14 hours of sleep every 24 hours (including naps)

Children 3 to 5 years – 10 to 13 hours of sleep every 24 hours (including naps)

Children 6 to 12 years – 9 to 12 hours of sleep every 24 hours

Teens 13 to 18 years – 8 to 10 hours of sleep every 24 hours

Health Talk spoke with Michael Howell, M.D., a neurologist and sleep expert at the University of Minnesota.

“It’s nice to finally have some guidelines,” said Howell. “Parents know that sleep is a moving target, and sleep patterns will evolve over time.”

Howell explained how critical sleep is for children ages 4 months to 18 years old, saying that when children start learning language, math, reading, and social skills, sleep is essential to consolidating all of the information.

Additionally, as children start to enter adolescence, their sleep patterns change and lack of sleep can have consequences in almost every possible way.

“Their grades slip and they tend to have more behavioral issues. There is also a direct correlation between sleep and motor vehicle accidents, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, and mental health issues.”

Teenagers may also be motivated to know that proper sleep can clear up acne, promote weight loss, and help overall athletic performance.  

Due to the importance of sleep, the idea of delayed school start times has recently been a topic of conversation. Adolescents’ body clocks are naturally later and delayed school start times could allow for more sleep and improve overall mood, academic performance and mental health.

“Sleep consumes one-third of our lives and serves a fundamental purpose in growth and brain development,” explained Howell

Developing good sleep habits at an early age and receiving sufficient sleep can prove to be extremely beneficial and sets the stage for healthy sleep habits later in life.

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