Local experts offer tips to help parents, children sleep right

Summer is winding down, and the school year will be here soon, which means parents and children need to make sure they are getting a good night’s sleep.

According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, 65 percent of Americans report having difficulty falling asleep, waking during the night and waking feeling tired at least a few times each week.

We asked local experts what parents and children should know about sleeping right.

Adults and sleep

As their children’s school year approaches, parents need to make sure they are sleeping well, experts say.

“All parents lead very busy lives,” said Dr. Thomas Yunger, the director of sleep services at Sleep Diagnostics of Dayton in Centerville, and Sleep Specialists in Huber Heights. “… As the new school year approaches, this is a good time to reevaluate our sleep schedules and sleep needs in order to maximize productivity for ourselves and our children.”

In general, adults require seven to nine hours of sleep per night, he said.

Yunger and Dr. Moin Ranginwala, co-medical director of Springfield Regional Sleep Center, said a good night’s sleep leads to better energy, concentration, memory, mood, productivity and immune function for adults.

On the other hand, getting a poor night’s sleep may cause lapses in concentration and short-term memory, as well as excessive daytime drowsiness, they said.

Obstacles to sleep

The average American sleeps about 6.5 hours per night, Yunger said.

“Many of us are sacrificing sleep on a nightly basis,” he said. ” … Much of this is related to our busy schedules. Work schedules are longer, and many are bringing work home with them. Household chores need to be done, kids need to be taken to soccer and football, our parents often require assistance and emails need to be answered.”

According to Yunger and Ranginwala, other obstacles to sleep for adults include a bed partner who snores or has sleep apnea; alcohol; bright light exposure, watching TV or exercise close to bedtime; stress; and health problems including arthritis, depression, diabetes, prostate enlargement, sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.

“Sleep needs to become a priority,” Yunger said. “Health issues such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome need to be addressed by a primary care physician or a sleep professional.”

Sleep medicine

Sleeping pills can be useful as a short-term solution for adults — for two to three weeks — but should be avoided if possible on a chronic basis, Yunger said. Ranginwala said adults should consult their physician first before taking sleeping pills.

Sleep medicine may lead to dizziness, confusion, restlessness, palpitations, nightmares, sleep walking and sleep driving, according to Yunger. Some sleep medicines can become physically and psychologically addictive, he said. Sleep medicine also may lead to falls for older people, Ranginwala said.

Sleep advice

Here are Yunger and Ranginwala’s tips to help adults get a good night’s sleep.

  • The bedroom should be quiet, dark and cool.
  • Establish a bedtime routine, and try to relax prior to bedtime with soft music, light reading or meditation.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, including weekends.
  • Avoid napping more than 20 minutes at a time.
  • Do not drink caffeinated beverages after 3 p.m.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption close to bedtime.
  • Do not exercise two to three hours prior to bedtime.
  • Avoid hot showers or baths just prior to sleep.
  • Do not eat heavy meals within three hours of bedtime.
  • Keep pets and children out of bed with you.
  • Keep televisions and computers out of the bedroom.
  • Avoid bright light exposure close to bedtime.

Children and sleep

Just like their parents, children should work to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for the school year, experts say.

“Adequate sleep is necessary for optimal functioning,” said Kelly C. Byars, an associate professor of clinical pediatrics in the Division of Psychology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, who directs the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Cincinnati Children’s.

According to Byars, here is the amount of sleep different age groups need each night:

  • Infants (2 to 12 months old) — 13 to 17 hours
  • Toddlers (1 to 3 years old) — 12 to 14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3 to 5 years old) — 11 to 13 hours
  • School-age children (6 to 12 years old) — 10 to 11 hours
  • Adolescents (13 to 18 years old) — 9 to 9.5 hours

Byars and Dr. Samuel Dzodzomenyo, medical director of the Pediatric Sleep Center at Dayton Children’s Medical Center, said sleep helps children to do their best in all aspects of the day, including in athletics, academics and social interactions. Sleep gives the brain a chance to reorganize and store information gathered during the day more efficiently, reduces anxiety, helps the body to recuperate physically and promotes growth in general, they said.

On the other hand, not getting a good night’s sleep may lead to mood and behavior issues; accidents and injuries; memory, concentration, and learning problems; slower reaction times; and compromised health, according to Byars and Dzodzomenyo.

Obstacles to sleep

Several obstacles stand in the way of a good night’s sleep for children, according to experts.

These obstacles include the lack of an appropriate bedtime; anxiety at night; refusal to go to bed; late meals or exercise; using light-emitting electronics such as a television, a computer or video games; medical conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease and asthma; and intrinsic sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea, Byars and Dzodzomenyo said.

Sleep medicine

Medication is not appropriate for the most common reasons that children get inadequate sleep, Byars said.

According to Dzodzomenyo, most childhood sleep problems can be effectively treated with behavior modifications alone.

Dzodzomenyo said sleeping pills may “lag on” during the day and cause daytime drowsiness, inattention and behavior problems.

“Always consult a medical professional regarding the appropriateness of a specific medication for your child,” Byars said.

Sleep advice

Here are Byars and Dzodzomenyo’s tips to help children get a good night’s sleep.

  • Wake up and go to sleep at approximately the same time every day of the week, including the weekend.
  • Napping should be developmentally appropriate. Too long or too frequent naps may disrupt sleep. For children requiring nap time, avoid naps after 3 p.m. For older children, napping during the day should be avoided.
  • Eat regular meals, and do not go to bed hungry.
  • Several hours before bedtime, eliminate all foods and drinks containing caffeine, such as most colas, chocolate, coffee and tea.
  • Children should learn to fall asleep independent from their parents.
  • Children should sleep in their own bed by themselves.

  • Vigorous activity should be avoided for one to two hours before bedtime.
  • Mild exercise four hours before bedtime is appropriate and may help improve sleep onset.

  • Spend time outside each day.
  • Make sure that the bedroom is a comfortable temperature — less than 75 degrees — during the night.
  • Restrict activities in bed to sleeping only. Avoid watching television, reading and playing games.
  • Keep the sleeping environment relatively free of loud distractions.

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