Why Aren’t Our Kids Getting Enough Sleep?

“The Daly Dose” is written by Jeffrey Daly, M.D.
As a Child Psychiatrist with a busy clinical practice I am continually amazed with the high percentage of my patients who are struggling to get enough sleep. Sleep is essential for good general as well as mental health. Our sleep deprived children are more prone to irritability, low frustration tolerance and difficulty focusing and staying on task. While at times a child’s underlying mental health problem is causing the disrupted sleep, more often it caused by the lack of practicing good sleep hygiene. In our office we are constantly educating our patients and parents on principles of good sleep hygiene. Here are a few of the common issues that need to be addressed.

Turn off all electronic screens one hour prior to bedtime!
One of the most common sleep hygiene infractions are the use of electronic screens at bedtime. The use of a television, computer, smart phone or hand-held video game, one hour prior to bedtime, causes disrupted sleep. This may be the sleep hygiene principle children will resist the most. Parents commonly have to demand that all electronic devises are out of the child’s room one hour prior to bedtime. Just before bed we encourage our patients to read.

Use your bed to sleep in only!
Many of our children are using their beds for activities other than sleeping. These include doing home work, talking and texting on the phone, reading, watching television and playing video games. This trains your brain that we do multiple activities other than sleep when we lay down to go to sleep. We encourage our patients to us their bed only for sleeping. Other activities that are being done in their bedroom should be done in a chair or at a desk.

Our children don’t need energy drinks!
There has been a proliferation of multiple energy drinks that are being marketed to our youth. Monster, Rockstar, and Redbull are commonly consumed by our teens in high quantities. These products my cause increased anxiety as well as insomnia. The child who has poor sleep due to ingestion of these products the prior day feels tired the next day and goes for another energy drink causing a vicious cycle of insomnia. We commonly have patients complaining of poor sleep while they a drinking a 32 ounce energy drink that their parent bought them at Stewart’s en route to the appointment.

Please be asking your patients about their sleep and educate about principles of good sleep hygiene. These principles should be assessed and implemented prior to suggesting a pharmacological intervention for insomnia in a child. For more detailed information on sleep hygiene please go to the following links:

Given the clinical importance of healthy sleep habits, we will are happy to offer a continuing education event on this topic this spring. Catherine Schumann, Ph.D., a sleep expert, will further educate us on sleep issues in children on Thursday, May 17th from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. at Four Winds Saratoga. If you can’t make it to Four Winds, try joining the program live online via our virtual classroom. To register for this event, just click here!

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