The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement of endorsement supporting guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) that outline recommended sleep duration for children from infants to teens. The guidelines, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, encourage clinicians to discuss the recommended sleep time and healthy sleep habits with parents and teenagers during office visits.

“Adequate sleep is essential for optimal health in children and adolescents,” says Shalini Paruthi, MD, who was lead author of the AASM guidelines. “Recent research studies indicate that adequate sleep duration can improve attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health. Failure to get enough sleep, or getting too much sleep, regularly is associated with higher risks of injuries, hypertension, obesity, and depression. Teenagers who slept outside the recommended ranges were at higher risk of suicidal thoughts and attempts.” It is important to remember that most studies reviewed were cross-sectional, and thus showed associations, not causation.

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In addition, the AAP suggests that all screens be turned off 30 minutes before bedtime and that televisions, computers, and other screens not be allowed in children’s bedrooms. For infants and children of all ages, the AAP notes that it is especially important to establish a bedtime routine to ensure adequate sleep amounts each night. “Children and teenagers with sleep durations that regularly fall outside of these recommended sleep times are at higher risk for physical and mental health problems,” adds Dr. Paruthi.

Important Implications

According to Dr. Paruthi, clinicians should be aware of the AAP’s recommended sleep durations and discuss them with parents and children during clinical visits. “We need to open the dialogue with patients about the importance of getting adequate sleep,” she says. “The recommendations can serve as a useful starting point for clinicians to discuss sleep with children and parents.”

Healthy sleep habits are imperative to improving the health and well-being of patients, Dr. Paruthi says. “If we make more concerted efforts to encourage healthy sleep, there is also a good chance we can have a profound impact on societal health from a financial perspective,” she adds. Ultimately, promoting adequate sleep may lead to decreases in healthcare utilization for children and teenagers and may reduce costs for treating the trickle-down health effects of poor sleep.

Shalini Paruthi, MD, has indicated to Physician’s Weekly that she has no financial disclosures to report.