Health News Articles

Are Your Kids Sleeping Ok?

May 1, 2013

 

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Sleep is critical to a child’s brain development. In fact, sleep quality can be the difference between a child who is learning and behaving well and a child who is struggling at home or in school, says Ashgan A. Elshinawy, DO, Medical Director of the Sleep Center at University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro (UMCPP). 

How do you know if your child is sleeping well? Remember BEARS*, a common screening tool for pediatric sleep problems, Dr. Elshinawy says. If your child is having Bedtime issues, Excessive daytime sleepiness, Awakenings at night, Regularity and duration of sleep issues, or Snoring, it might indicate a sleeping problem. 

“If your child is having problems in even one of those areas, it usually warrants a visit to a sleep doctor,” says Dr. Elshinawy, who is board certified in sleep medicine, pulmonary medicine and internal medicine. “If a sleep problem appears to be impacting a child’s ability to function during the day, then it needs to be addressed.” 

Getting Enough Sleep?

Dr. Elshinawy says many childhood sleep problems can be traced to an inadequate amount of sleep. Up until about age 10, children should be getting 11 hours of sleep at night, not including naps. Kids ages 10 to 15 should be getting about 10 hours, while teenagers 16 and older need about 9 hours. 

“With our busy lives, many kids are not getting the proper amount of sleep,” she says. “Adults need about 7 hours, and they often get away with 6, so they may assume their kids can do the same. That’s not true.”  Dr. Elshinawy says parents can encourage better sleep by:

  • Enforcing consistent bedtimes and routines around bedtime.
  • Eliminating stimulating foods, such as caffeine, and wake- promoting activities, such as strenuous exercise and video games, around bedtime.
  • Offering small rewards to encourage young children to stay in their beds through the night. 

Child-Sleep-CenterSleep Study

While many issues can be solved with behavioral changes, an overnight sleep study may be necessary if a child appears to have sleep apnea—the starting and stopping of breathing during sleep—or excessive parasomnias such as night terrors, sleepwalking, head banging or waking up confused. 

UMCPP’s Sleep Center, which is fully accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, is staffed by technologists who are specially trained in pediatric sleep studies and monitor pediatric patients on a one-to-one basis. The center operates seven days a week, and parents are required to stay in the room with a child, or stay in one of the center’s adjoining rooms, if available. All rooms are private, each with its own bathroom and shower. 

For children, surgery to remove the tonsils and adenoids to improve breathing during sleep often cures apnea, Dr. Elshinawy says. Treatment for parasomnias varies but can include medication, changes in sleep habits or addressing underlying health problems. 

For more information about UMCPP’s Sleep Center, please call 609.853.7520 or visit www.princetonhcs.org/sleepcenter. 

*Source: "A Clinical Guide to Pediatric Sleep: Diagnosis and Management of Sleep Problems” by Jodi A. Mindell and Judith A. Owens.