The Importance of Good Sleep Hygiene

With the all-nighters cramming for end-of-the-year exams and then camps and summertime schedules approaching, I wanted to discuss the importance of a restful night’s sleep. Sleep needs change for different stages of life. Our schedules are becoming even more packed than they ever have been, and we are trying to do more and more while running on less and less sleep.
So, I want to discuss how sleep can help you be a healthier and better you.

Newborns require 16-18 hours of sleep per day. They basically eat, sleep, and repeat all day long. As they get a little older the sleep patterns change. Around six months of age, infants will start sleeping 9-12 hours at night and taking naps during the day, still reaching close to 16 hours of sleep per day. Once they reach toddler age, they only need about 11-14 hours of sleep per day. During these early years, these little children are creating their own sleep patterns and habits. It is suggested that those who are laid down to sleep drowsy but not completely asleep will learn to self-soothe and sleep more independently as they get older.

Once children reach school age, they require about 9-11 hours of sleep each day. Life is starting to get even busier for families around this time, so it is important to develop good sleeping habits for your children. Oftentimes we go, go, go all day and have a decompress time of just “watching a little TV” before bed. I know I am guilty of this too. We have learned more about screen time – defined as any time spent in front of a TV, computer screen, or iPad – and its effects. We now realize that watching TV too close to bedtime can actually be more stimulating and correlates to insomnia and anxiety, and over time has the potential to be detrimental to a person’s mental health.

A good alternative in this age group is to have a bedtime routine of bath time, maybe some easy chores (getting clothes ready for the next day, etc.), and story time with one or two books before lying down to sleep. Children’s circadian sleep cycle, which is regulated by hormones in the body, is still developing, so it is also important to keep a consistent bedtime as much as possible.

As a teenager, your sleep requirements are similar to that of adults, needing 8-10 hours of sleep each day. During puberty, you will find the occasional need for longer periods of rest.

Some teens and adults feel as if they can sleep less during the week and catch up on sleep during the weekends. This however messes up your biological clock and leads to the same overall problems. Known effects of sleep deprivation in this age include worsening of acne, mood changes, weight gain, a weakened immune system, and cognitive problems Some hypothesize that our nation’s overall lack of sleep could be contributing to the increase number of individuals diagnosed with ADHD.

I know how difficult it can be with all of life’s demands to stick to a regular sleep schedule. However, I think we are all seeing a change in our youth’s physical and mental health, and the more research is done, the more we understand how healthy sleep patterns can contribute to our well-being. So I think with the fun and busyness of summer coming up, try to make sleep a priority for your family!

Jennifer Adair M.D.

Jennifer Adair, M.D., was born and raised in Mobile. She graduated from Davidson High School in 2002 and received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at The University of Alabama in 2006. She completed her medical training at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, and pediatric residency at the University of Nevada College of Medicine – Las Vegas and the University of South Alabama. She joined Children’s Medical Group in July 2013 and currently practices at their Airport office. Jennifer and her husband, Cory, reside in Mobile with their dogs, Fitz and Barkley.