Texas Health and Human Services / Texas Health Steps

Promoting Healthy Sleep for Children and Adolescents

Sleep is one of the primary activities of the brain during early development and plays an important role in healthy cognitive and psychosocial development.

Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2019

From the first days of life, sleep plays an important role in healthy development. When children get the recommended hours of sleep on a regular basis, they have an improved quality of life, which in turn, can enhance family life overall. Conversely, lack of sleep contributes to a range of physical, emotional, developmental and social problems.

Age-related sleep disruptions are common, and sleep disorders affect up to 50 percent of children and 40 percent of adolescents. Many parents are unaware how much sleep their children need, how to detect sleep disorders and how to establish habits that promote healthy sleep.

Good sleep habits — known as “sleep hygiene” — include healthy nutrition and physical activity, a regular bedtime routine (including separating from electronics and other stimulating activities prior to bedtime), a dark and quiet sleep space, and a consistent sleep schedule.

Quick Quiz

Evan, age 9, consistently balks about bedtime, which causes conflict in the household and decreases sleep for everyone. His parents ask you for advice. All of the following habits are recommended to improve Evan’s sleep hygiene EXCEPT for which one?

Restrict Evan’s bedroom to sleep only. Provide a different space for homework and recreation.

Prohibit Evan from having heavy meals, sugary foods or drinks, or caffeine for several hours before bedtime.

Require Evan to be in bed at the same time as younger siblings.

Establish a consistent bedtime routine, including a wind-down period that Evan can begin to manage.

Why it matters

Health-care providers can differentiate between normal sleep and common sleep disorders at various ages. Your ongoing relationship with young patients and their families offers opportunities to identify sleep problems, screen for sleep disorders and provide anticipatory guidance to help families improve sleep hygiene and prevent problems from occurring.

Explore More

References

Jiang, F. (2019). Sleep and Early Brain Development. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. 75(suppl 1):44–53.

Paruthi, S., Brooks, L. J., D’Ambrosio, C., Hall, W. A., Kotagal, S., Lloyd, R. M., . . . Wise, M. S. (2016). Recommended amount of sleep for pediatric populations: a consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 12(6):785–786.