The significance of good sleep habits often is overlooked. It seems so simple; when the hour is late and it’s dark outside, it’s time to get some rest. Unfortunately for millions of kids and young adults, it’s not that simple. With busy school schedules, after-school and weekend activities, and maximizing time with family and friends, sleep often is one of the first things to become compromised. Not only does lack of sleep make for a tired person, but it has a critical impact on many aspects of health, daytime function and cognitive development.
The direct effect that sleep has on health has been well-studied over the years and is known to lower a person’s resistance to illnesses. Decreased amounts of sleep alter immune function, making it more likely for illness to occur. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shares evidence for a higher risk of getting the common cold, pneumonia and influenza when sleep deprivation is a factor. Once illness occurs, sleep is necessary to boost the immune system and fight off illness. Sleep is the body’s time to repair and rejuvenate itself.
Daytime function also is altered with sleep deprivation. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently released recommendations for later start times in middle and high schools after noting an increased risk of automobile accidents and a decline in academic performance related to decreased amounts of sleep. Poor test scores, increased behavioral problems and children falling asleep in class have been highlighted as inhibited daytime functions directly related to sleep deprivation.
Recommendations per the CDC:
|Age||Recommended amount of sleep|
|Newborns||16-18 hours a day|
|Preschool-aged children||11-12 hours a day|
|School-aged children||At least 10 hours a day|
|Teens||9-10 hours a day|
|Adults (and elderly)||7-8 hours a day|
While it’s easy to perpetuate the cycle of being sleepy, it’s possible to make a conscious effort to improve this problem. Simple steps to a good night’s sleep include: sticking to a schedule, decreasing caffeinated beverages, keeping naps to a minimum, creating a calm environment, and knowing when to unplug from electronics.
It’s important to keep in mind that sleep deprivation might not seem like a big deal, but it can have serious consequences. Incorporate healthy sleep habits to promote an overall healthy lifestyle.
Erin Fritz is a certified nurse practitioner at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.