Child Health | 22 days ago

Counting Sheep: The Importance of Good Sleep Habits for Kids and Teens

Good sleep hygiene is crucial to kids’ and teens’ physical, mental and emotional well-being. Pediatrician Dr. Hebah Pranckun shares how sleep affects health and how to help your child get a better night’s rest. 

Getting enough high-quality sleep is essential for children's physical, mental and emotional well-being.

“Healthy sleep habits and a good night’s rest are crucial for a healthy body,” says Dr. Hebah Pranckun, a pediatrician at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Stanly Pediatrics. “Certain hormones are released during sleep, including growth hormone. Long-term sleep deprivation can negatively affect the overall growth potential of a child.”

Sleep also plays a role in immunity and cell and tissue repair. 

“Studies have shown that children who do not get good quality sleep are more at risk of developing an illness after exposure to viruses or bacteria,” says Dr. Pranckun. 

How sleep impacts children’s mental health 

A lack of sleep in children has been shown to yield behavior, attention and emotional health problems. 

“Poor sleep habits can result in the misdiagnoses of certain mental health and behavior disorders, including depression, anxiety and ADHD, to name a few,” says Pranckun. 

Sleep, brain development and school performance 

Studies have also found that sleep deprivation can have a long-term effect on brain structure and development. 

“This can affect a child’s functioning in areas such as learning, attention, decision-making and memory,” she says. “While many of these studies are still in progress, no risks should be taken with a developing brain, and healthy sleep habits must be enforced.” 

Sleep and body mass index (BMI) 

“Studies are still in progress evaluating sleep and BMI in children, but short sleep duration and obesity have been found to be consistently linked to one another,” says Pranckun. “In addition to sleep duration, sleep timing patterns can be associated with increased obesity risk.”

Because of this, she recommends not only appropriate amounts of sleep, but also early bedtimes. 

How much sleep kids need each night 

The amount of sleep your child needs each day depends on their age. Here’s a quick reference guide:

  • Newborns and infants: 12 to 17 hours
  • 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours
  • 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours
  • 6 to 13 years: 9 to 11 hours
  • 14 to 17 years: 8 to 10 hours
  • 17 and older: 7 to 9 hours 

How to help your child establish good sleep habits 

Pranckun says good sleep hygiene includes:

  • A consistent, early bedtime.
  • Avoiding screens (tablets, televisions, computers and smartphones) at least one hour before bed.
  • Practicing calming activities during that time period, such as bathing, brushing teeth or reading. 

“Parents can support children in establishing good sleep routines by talking to them about the importance of sleep and helping them create a good bedtime routine,” she says. “This bedtime routine will be the key to helping their brain know it’s time to power down. It’s also important that as adults, we do not overschedule kids with activities that interfere with their bedtime routine.” 

Signs your child or teen isn’t getting enough sleep

Signs your child or teen isn’t getting adequate sleep include:

  • Excessive fatigue 
  • Difficulty waking in the morning
  • Behavior changes 
  • Difficulty with mood regulation
  • Increased negative emotions
  • Inability to focus 
  • Decreased school performance
  • Headaches
  • Nausea 
  • Abdominal pain

Pranckun recommends scheduling an appointment with a pediatrician if your child:

  • Has difficulty establishing a good bedtime routine.
  • Has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • Has changes to their behavior or emotions.
  • Has new physical symptoms. 

“As parents, we often underestimate the need for sleep,” she says. “We think of the classic eight hours that we always hear is needed, but sleep needs vary for different children. A good night’s rest can positively support a healthy mind and body.”  

If you have any questions about helping your child get their best night’s rest, talk to their pediatrician. Find an Atrium Health Levine Children’s pediatrician near you