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Sleep-Getting Enough is Important For All Ages

DEAR DR. PAUL: I am a grade one school teacher and would like to know how much sleep children between six and seven years old need. Thank you.

PEDIATRICIAN DR. PAUL Answers: Thanks for your question. I would guess that the reason you ask for this information is that you suspect your students may not be getting enough sleep. Before giving you the exact number of sleep hours required, let me briefly discuss the importance of sleep and signs of sleep deprivation in kids and in adults as well. Being a parent is difficult enough as we are faced with many challenges of raising and caring for our children. Adding sleep deprivation makes the task all that more difficult. So what I will be saying in this column applies both to kids and to their parents too!

Sleep is important especially in growing and developing children. Not only does sleep provide an opportunity for the body to physically rest, it's the time during which, according to recent research, a the brain consolidates or reinforces what a child has learned or observed during the day. Not surprisingly, sleep deprived children tend not to do well at school. Other symptoms of sleep deprivation in children include the obvious ones such as fatigue, inattentiveness and listlessness. There can also be less obvious symptoms including irritability, impatience, fussiness and even aggressive behavior. I think we have all experienced these feelings at one time in our lives. Chronically sleep deprived children(and adults) experience these daily.

Teenagers also need to get enough sleep. Just because they are older does not mean they can get away with less sleep. In fact, most adolescents actually get much less sleep than they need. However, if you look at the amount of hours a teenager needs it is almost as much as younger children. Staying up late a few nights in a row and then trying to catch up on the weekend will not help. In other words catch up sleep does not count. So, if on average, one seems to get enough hours of sleep over say a week, but it is done so by catching up to make up for nights of little or less than adequate sleep, it will not work. What counts is getting enough sleep each and every night.

Tragically, sleep deprivation has been the cause for many accidents including the Exxon oil cargo ship crash. Unfortunately, many highway accidents happen because a sleep deprived driver fell asleep at the wheel. Although the amount tends to decrease with age, still the average adult needs at least 8 to 8.5 hours of sleep per night. Teenagers need at least 8.5 - 9.5 hours of sleep while school age children need between 10 and 11 hours of sleep nightly. Children less than 4 years of age need a daytime nap as well. The message clearly is that we all need to get enough sleep and this, regularly.

In response to your question I have created a chart which illustrates the sleep requirements by age from 1 month to adulthood. Click here to link to the sleep requirement chart.

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