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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

The Importance of Rest at Every Age : Children and teens require the proper amount of sleep every night to promote good health.

Jul 29, 2016 04:00PM ● By Dr. Shari Aftahi and Dr. Beth Hamann

It is not surprising that many American adults are sleep-deprived because we often fail to get the seven to nine hours of sleep doctors recommend. When young people fail to get the recommended amount of sleep they need, they also are at risk for a number of health and safety problems associated with poor sleep.

According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), teens need eight to 10 hours of sleep a night in order to function and perform well. One study found that only 15 percent of teens were sleeping eight-and-a-half hours on school nights. In an NSF 2014 Sleep in America poll, parents agreed that their young children and teens were not getting the amount of sleep they needed.

When we sleep, our brains and bodies are recharged and complete important activities. The NSF reports that good sleep can even help young people to eat better and manage the stress associated with being a teenager. In a study published in Nature Neuroscience, Dr. Ines Wilhelm found that during sleep, children's brains transform new material they've learned into active knowledge.

When they sleep well, children transform material more efficiently than adults' brains. As such, sleep plays a critical role in learning and education. Young people that are rested are more likely to feel good and learn better in school. When they do not get enough rest, a number of consequences can occur, and missing sleep can pose serious problems for their health and safety. The NSF 2006 Sleep in America poll found that many adolescents experience regular depressive moods, and that these teens are also likely to be sleep-deprived.

A 2008 study published in Sleep involving 591 children found children that slept fewer than nine hours per night were more likely to be overweight or obese. The NSF notes that poor sleep can impact a child's ability to learn and concentrate and contribute to illness and drowsy driving.

Causes of poor sleep can range from late-night study sessions to irregular sleep patterns across the week. One cause of poor sleep in teens which has been discussed frequently in recent years is the conflict between biological sleep patterns and school start times. While sleep patterns shift toward later times for sleeping and waking during adolescence, the NSF reports that most high school start times remain very early.

Additional causes of poor sleep in teens include sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, insomnia and sleep apnea. In fact, even having a parent in the house with sleep apnea, which often causes loud snoring, can disturb a child's sleep. For children, high levels of noise and light, as well as room temperatures that are too hot or cold, can disrupt sleep.

Dr. Beth Hamann and Dr. Shari Aftahi have 50 years of combined experience in dentistry. For more information, contact Koala Center for Sleep Disorders - Biltmore, in Phoenix, at 602-883-1931 or visit

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