Alaska Sleep Education Center

Healthy Sleep for Children

Posted by ASC Pediatric Medical Director, Dr. Harry Yuan on Aug 25, 2019 11:19:00 AM

It is common knowledge that adequate, good-quality sleep is important in the development of children and translates to better quality of life for children of all ages. Yet, childhood insomnia is the most common sleep complaint from parents. Although certain sleep disorders may cause insomnia, the difficulty in initiating or maintaining sleep may be due to poor sleep habits or sub-optimal sleep environment.

Good sleep habits include bedtimes, wake times, types of activities around bedtime, sleep schedules, sleep environment and diet. Good sleep habits are achieved by optimizing behaviors that promote sleep and avoiding those that sabotage it.

Training the mind to recognize bedtime is one method of promoting sleep. Having the same bedtimes and wake times daily help our bodies synchronize our internal clocks (circadian rhythm) with the environmental clock (time) and prepares us to fall asleep as bedtime approaches. Similarly, having the same bedtime routine nightly also signals our mind that sleep is approaching.

Other factors that can influence the ability to fall asleep are the environment and certain daytime activities. Ideally, the room should be quiet and dark. A room temperature on the cooler side (between 65-70 degrees) with blankets to stay warm is optimal. Avoid using the bedroom for any other activities aside from sleeping. Screen time on any electronic devices within two hours of bedtime exposes the eyes to excessive amount of light and should be avoided.

Exercise during the day can promote better sleep, but it may disrupt the ability to fall asleep if done within four hours of bedtime. Caffeine can exert its waking effect up to six hours after ingestion and should be avoided later in the day.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has stated that adequate sleep in children leads to improved behavior, better learning, and higher quality of life. Children with inadequate sleep are at increased risk for obesity, depression and hypertension.

The AAP has endorsed the recommendation from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) regarding sleep hours for different age groups. (The listed hours are per 24 hours including naps.)

4 months to 12 months: 12 – 16 hours
1 to 2 years of age: 11 – 14 hours
3 to 5 years of age: 10 – 13 hours
6 to 12 years of age: 9 – 12 hours
13 to 18 years of age: 8 – 10 hours

Aside from certain sleep habits and sleep environment, another common cause of insomnia in children is obstructive sleep apnea.

Unlike adults, children with obstructive sleep apnea may present with difficulty falling asleep and frequent nighttime awakenings as well as symptoms similar to attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) such as difficulty focusing, poor school performance, and hyperactivity.

In fact, up to 25 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD may actually have undiagnosed poor sleep that is manifesting the ADHD symptoms. It is important to treat obstructive sleep apnea not only to address the presenting symptoms, but also to prevent the complications that can develop in the future, such as diabetes, obesity, heart failure and Alzheimer’s disease.

Treatments for certain risk factors of obstructive sleep apnea (e.g., enlarged tonsils, retracted lower jaw) may prevent the condition from returning in the future.

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Topics: Pediatrics, kids, parents

Wake Up to a Back-2-School Sleep Schedule

Posted by Dr. Michelle Karten, Nemours DuPont Pediatrics, PA on Aug 3, 2019 10:04:40 AM

It may be hard for kids everywhere to think about, but there aren’t many lazy days of summer vacation left. No doubt, with all the summer activities and getaways, your kids’ sleep schedules may have gone a bit haywire. But there’s still time to help get them on a back-to-school sleep schedule and practice some healthy sleep habits if you start, well, now.

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Topics: school, Pediatrics, kids, sleep schedules

School's Out for Summer!

Posted by Jennifer Hines on May 21, 2019 8:08:00 PM

You’ve probably heard of the “summer slide” in academic learning—the tendency for kids to fall behind in reading and math skills on summer vacation.

The summer sleep slide is real, too. Without the structure of school, kids tend to stay up later—sometimes much later—and not sleep in consistently enough to make up for it.

Rather than spend the summer catching up on sleep, kids can accumulate sleep debt that affects their health, mood, and ability to learn.

Most families try to balance the joy and freedom of long summer nights, with the reality of two little kids’ sizable sleep needs. We visit with friends, we go out for dinner or to play basketball in the evenings, and often bedtime is pushed back.

Here’s how we’re making sure that while our family is enjoying the lenient summer schedule, my kids are also getting the sleep they need.

Watch total sleep needs

Preschoolers need 11 - 13 hours of sleep and school age kids need 10.5 - 12 hours. If bedtime is sliding later over the summer, make sure your child is capable of either sleeping in (installing blackout curtains or shades helps enormously), or has the chance to nap.

My older child is able to sleep in to give himself the 11 hours of sleep he needs nightly. My preschooler has a built-in nap time so she always has the opportunity to sleep during the day if she needs it.

Keep sleep times consistent

Even if bedtimes are later over the summer, it still helps to keep them consistent. In our house, what was a 7:30 p.m. bedtime during the school year is often 8:30 p.m. in the summer. Consistent timing is powerful, because the internal clock (which affects health, mood, and cognition) works best with regularity. I

n fact, in a study of over 11,000 young kids researchers found that a regular bedtime—whether early or late—was linked to better math, reading, and spatial skills. Kids whose bedtimes moved around were more likely to have mood and behavior issues. Shifting bedtimes around is like giving a child a mini case of jet lag. An 8:30 p.m. bedtime every night is better than alternating between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.

Gradually shift for fall

It takes time to truly shift a person’s sleep schedule and kids may need a week or two to fully adjust back to their school times. You can start putting your child to bed 15 minutes earlier each night for a week to get to the optimal bedtime for school, and if you really want to harness the power of the internal clock, keep her on that bedtime for a week before school starts (and throughout the school year).

A good bedtime for a preschooler or school age child—especially considering early school start times—is 7:30 p.m.

While you’re making the shift, if your child has a hard time falling asleep at an earlier bedtime, wake her up in the morning 15 minutes earlier. This will affect the time she’s drowsy at night and help her shift to the earlier schedule.

Now she’s got her internal clock on her side and a full tank of sleep. She’s ready to get a jump on the new school year.

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Topics: kids, sleep deprivation, colic

Kids, Sleep and the Holidays

Posted by Jennifer Hines on Nov 24, 2018 6:53:00 AM

The end of the year--the holiday season--is a popular time for families to travel and visit relatives, or have grandparents and others visit to celebrate the holidays together. It is also a time when families' usual schedules are inevitably disrupted, and sleep schedules frequently suffer as well, for both children and their parents. Kids of all ages, from infants to adolescents, are likely to experience sleep difficulties in the six weeks or so between Thanksgiving and the first week in January.

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Topics: kids, holiday, cognitive sleep issues

Will Halloween Treats Wreck My Sleep – and My Kid’s Sleep?

Posted by Guest Blogger on Oct 31, 2018 11:06:00 AM


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Topics: kids, holiday


Posted by Jennifer Hines on Oct 30, 2018 3:00:00 PM

Every parent dreads it – too much candy, too much excitement and too little sleep- that’s Halloween! Many families find that one late night can cause their children to become overtired, leading to more night waking and early rising after the excitement of the big day has ended. 

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Topics: kids, losing sleep, sugar

Getting Your Kids Out of Bed

Posted by Jennifer Hines on Apr 25, 2018 1:41:00 AM

Let’s face it. Getting your kids out of bed in the morning can be difficult. While the sleep experts at the Alaska Sleep Clinic can’t come wake your kids up in the morning, we can give you a few tips that will help your kids sleep better and be well rested and happier in the morning.

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Topics: Sleep, teens, kids

Find a happy medium for a child afraid of the dark

Posted by Stefanie Leiter on Dec 26, 2017 9:00:00 AM

We have all been there as a parent. We are warned there will be screaming, crying, and frustrating nights.

And I am not talking about a newborn baby: parents cry, too.

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Topics: kids, afraid of the dark

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