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Why Proper Sleep Habits are Crucial

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June 25, 2019

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about why proper sleep habits are crucial for everyone. Hello, I'm Amy Myers, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Dr. Lori Staton, Mississippi State University Associate Professor in the School of Human Sciences.

Lori, as we all know, proper sleep habits are crucial so we can be alert and function normally in life. Do signs of sleep deprivation vary depending on the person's age?

Lori Staton: Common signs of sleep deficiency include problems focusing and controlling emotions, having memory lapses and slower reaction times, but you will see some variation in age. For example, as an adult, it's really common for us to get sleepy, doze off, or be really slow in our movements when we are tired, whereas a child may be hyperactive and engage in misbehavior. So if you've ever seen a two-year-old who's running around the house screaming and saying they don't want to take a nap, but you get them into a cool, dark, quiet room and settled, and they go right to sleep, this is how sleep deprivation looks different in children than it does in adults.

Amy Myers: How much sleep do we need? Let's start with older adults and work our way down.

Lori Staton: The National Sleep Foundation has set guidelines based on years of research. And persons 65 and older typically need anywhere between seven to eight hours of sleep, which is a really small window, but that window widens as you go down in age. So adults, which we consider to be anyone 18 to 64, need anywhere between seven to nine hours of sleep. For teenagers that looks like eight to ten hours of sleep. For school-age children it's nine to eleven hours. And for preschoolers and younger children the total sleep time doesn't only include that that happens at night, but also naps during the daytime. So for children ages three to five, they should get between ten and thirteen hours a day, whereas toddlers need eleven to fourteen hours. And infants between four and eleven months old need about twelve to fifteen hours, and newborns need fourteen to seventeen hours a day.

Amy Myers: Obviously it's our responsibility to make sure kids develop proper sleep habits. How do we create a healthy sleep regimen for our youngsters?

Lori Staton: Well, consistency in schedule and routine are the most important sleep habits. Children really like to know what to expect, so it's really good to follow that same routine each night. So have dinner, take a bath, get your pajamas on, brush your teeth, read a story. Those kinds of things actually not only allow your child to kind of know what's going to come next, but it also allows the body to get into a routine, and that's important because your body releases hormones that allows your body to relax prior to bedtime. So that routine and that consistency in schedule will help.

Your sleep is regulated on light and dark cycle, and so one thing that you can do is dim lights in the house an hour before you're really ready for your child to go to bed, because fluorescent lights or halogen lights actually trick your brain into thinking that it's daytime.

And making sure that you set bedtime rules and stick to them, toddlers and preschoolers are really good at trying to push buttons and see what they can get by with, so they may go to bed but then get up and say, "I'm hungry, I'm thirsty." So if you set some rules, for instance, "After you brush your teeth there's no more food tonight," then that helps alleviate some of that resistance that they have to bedtime.

Amy Myers: And of course an occasional extenuating circumstance can delay bedtime, but many folks let kids stay up as late as the adults do, say a few times a week, and they even take them out to eat at nine o'clock at night. This may not seem harmful initially, but can it set a course for problems years down the road?

Lori Staton: We are learning more every day about the serious consequences of not having a regular sleep wake time. Research shows that even one hour less of sleep can significantly impact memory and learning the next day. Inconsistent sleep is also linked to many physical health conditions such as heart disease, Alzheimer's, diabetes, obesity and even cancer. So helping children establish healthy habits early, and recognizing that as a parent it's your job to set those boundaries, is really key. There're going to be days that schedules are really impossible, but as a parent you should try to minimize those.

Amy Myers: Today we're speaking with Lori Staton, Associate Professor. I'm Amy Myers, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service. 

Department: School of Human Sciences

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