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Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012
Older teenagers can function well with as little as seven hours of sleep, a new study has found. From MSNBC.com:
National guidelines recommend at least eight hours of serious snooze time a night for young people. But that’s an unrealistic goal for adolescents, who are overloaded with homework, extracurricular activities and part-time jobs, experts say. Or who feel the need to stay up late texting friends or updating Facebook.
In fact, if standardized test performance is any indication, 16-year-olds score best with about seven hours of sleep a night, surprising new research finds.
Brigham Young University economists Eric Eide and Mark Showalter — who are also dads — used a nationally representative sample of 1,724 students, comparing children’s and teens’ standardized test scores with the amount of sleep they reported.
For older teens, seven hours a night was plenty. The optimal amount of sleep for 12-year-olds was higher, about eight hours, while 10-year-olds did best with about nine hours. The report appears in the current issue of the Eastern Economics Journal.
Image: Sleeping teenage boy, via Shutterstock.
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Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
A study published this week in the journal Pediatrics, which we reported here yesterday, says that sleep experts don’t have scientific evidence to back up current sleep recommendations for kids.
But since the study appeared, some sleep experts have spoken up to say they disagree strongly with those findings.
Judith Owens, a pediatrician at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington and author of Take Charge of Your Child’s Sleep: The All-in-One Resource for Solving Sleep Problems in Kids and Teens, told NPR’s Shots blog yesterday that current sleep recommendations are indeed research-based. Owens believes that the researchers behind the Pediatrics article “left out multiple studies. It ends up looking like they picked and chose studies that suited their agenda.”
For example, she says, there’s “very solid data showing that teenagers need about 9 hours of sleep a night.” Other studies show that kids’ thinking and behavior improve when they get extended sleep.
Which sleep advice should parents follow? Owens says she trusts the sleep recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation, which you can find here. The foundation says children ages 5 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night, and teenagers need 9 to 10 hours. Here’s more from Owens from the NPR blog:
“We always [say] that there are clues to make sure that your child is getting enough sleep. For instance: Your child wakes up spontaneously at the time they’re supposed to wake up. They’re alert in the morning.
Granted, there are things we don’t know. But this is information that I think we can confidently pass on to parents.”
Image: Sleepy boy waking up via Shutterstock.
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Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
Does your child sleep enough? Here are two little-known facts: Kids haven’t been getting the expert-recommended amount of shut-eye for 100 years. And scientists don’t know exactly how much sleep children really need.
A new study published in the journal Pediatrics looked back over sleep advice for children from 1897 to 2009, and found 32 different sets of official recommendations in that period. The researchers also looked at how much kids actually slept, and found that they consistently got an average of 37 minutes less than the recommended amount.
But almost none of the sleep advice was based on research. “After 100 years, we still don’t have meaningful evidence for these recommendations,” Lisa Anne Matricciani of the University of South Australia, lead author of the study, told the Wall Street Journal.
Here’s more from the Los Angeles Times:
[T]he researchers could find only one case for which the expert guidelines were rooted in medical evidence of a need for a particular amount of sleep. That was a 1926 study that measured the actual sleep of 500 kids between the ages of 6 and 15 who were deemed “healthy.” Other than that, it seems that experts simply looked at the amount of sleep children around them were getting and figured that they really needed a little bit more, the authors wrote.
The current advice from the National Sleep Foundation is that children ages 5 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night, and teenagers need 9 to 10 hours. But a 2006 sleep survey found that about 45 percent of kids ages 11 to 17 get less than eight hours of sleep a night. Any parent who has dealt with a cranky, sleep-deprived child knows that’s not nearly enough.
Research also shows that it’s unwise to let kids skimp: Lack of sleep for children is linked to problems such as obesity, learning difficulties, and aggressive behavior.
Image: Sleepy boy in classroom via Shutterstock.
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Monday, January 9th, 2012
Infants and toddlers who exhibit sleep problems–a common issue, any parent will tell you–may have a greater risk of developing sleep disorders later in life, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found. The study reports that one in 10 infants and toddlers fall into the risk category, and urges pediatricians to screen for sleep issues and signs of potential problems, chiefly regular snoring that can signal later onset of obstructive sleep apnea.
The New York Times reports on the findings:
The findings also challenged a widespread notion that children who have sleep troubles early on tend to outgrow them. In the study, children who had one or more sleep problems at any point in early childhood were three to five times as likely to have a sleep problem later on.
“The data indicate that sleep problems in children are not an isolated phenomenon,” said Dr. Kelly Byars, an associate professor at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and an author of the study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics. “If you have it early and it’s not remedied, then it’s likely to continue over time.”
The warning signs of a disorder can vary widely. But some indicators of a potential problem in children are loud snoring several nights a week, frequent bouts of getting up in the middle of the night, nightmares or night terrors, and routinely taking longer than 20 minutes to fall asleep.
Image: Infant crying in crib, via Shutterstock.
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Monday, November 7th, 2011
A report in The New York Times chronicles new research that reveals the extent to which overstressed mothers use medications to help them wind down and sleep at the end of the day. Excerpts from the article:
Mother’s little helper of the new millennium may in fact be the sleeping pill — a prescription not likely to inspire a jaunty pop song anytime soon. Nearly 3 in 10 American women fess up to using some kind of sleep aid at least a few nights a week, according to “Women and Sleep,” a 2007 study by the National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit research group….
Why all the angst over bedtime, the one part of the day that, barring nightmares, ought to bring deeply needed peace? Many believe that sleep deprivation among women has worsened. In the “Women and Sleep” study, 80 percent of women reported being just too stressed or worried to turn out the proverbial lights.
[Sleep expert] Dr. [Nancy] Collop points to the persistent creep of technology into the after-hours, a time once reserved for physical and psychological winding down.
“There’s always the worry another e-mail has come in,” she said. “Just the light from the electronic book or the iPad screen is stimulating….”
While women with infants are loath to take something that might conk them into an oblivion the sleep monitor cannot penetrate, mothers with older children seem to have fewer misgivings.
According to IMS Health, a health care consulting firm in Danbury, Conn., the use of prescription sleep aids among women peaks from 40 to 59. Last year, the firm said, 15,473,000 American women between those ages got a prescription (overwhelmingly for Zolpidem, the generic form of Ambien) to help them sleep, nearly twice the number of men in that age group.
(image via: http://abcnews.go.com/)
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