by Lori S Brizee MS, RDN, CDE (first published in 2010 on kidseatright.org, a blog published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics)

Ahhh…a good night’s sleep …At long last, something enjoyable that is good for our health! Good sleep helps prevent obesity, especially in our children. Adults and children alike are all getting less sleep than ever before in history. Recent research has shown us that from infancy through adolescence and possibly adulthood, people who get the least sleep gain weight the fastest and are far more apt to be obese than those who get the recommended amount of sleep. We don’t know for sure what the mechanism is, but theories are that tiredness leads to lower physical activity and/or increased appetite, which results excess weight gain.
ADA spokesperson Ximena Jiminez RD, nutritionist for Head Start in Florida sees parents as role models for their kids—if parents don’t make sleep a priority for themselves, their kids don’t either. In our hectic world, getting by on little sleep, so we can “get more done” is often viewed as a virtue.
Marilyn Tanner-Blasiar MHS RD, pediatric nutritionist in St Louis and ADA spokesperson, sees lack of parent enforced bedtimes as a problem. She works with many families in which kids stay up late at night, playing video games or watching television and eating long after parents have gone to bed, and you guessed it, many have major weight problems. She believes that health care providers and the media could help better inform individuals and society about the importance of sleep.

How much sleep do our kids need?

  • Newborn infants: 0 to 2 months 12 to 18 hours (includes naps)
  • Infants: 3-11 months 14 to 15 hours (includes two naps)
  • Toddlers: 1-3 years 12 to 14 hours (includes one nap)
  • Preschoolers: 3-5 years 11 to13 hours (includes one nap)
  • School-age children: 5-10 years 10-11 hours
  • Teens : 10-17 years 8 ½ to 9 ¼ hours
  • Adults 7 to 9 hours
    http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need (accessed 10-15-10)

What’s a parent to do?

  • Be a good role models, make good sleep a priority for YOU.
  • Set and enforce regular bedtimes
  • Limit or cut out non-essential screen-time on school days—TV, computer/video games, cell phone texting …
  • Spend the half an hour before bedtime doing quiet, calming activities, like reading, listening to music, or talking about the day to help kids wind down and be ready for sleep.
  • If your child has problems sleeping, check out http://www.sleepforkids.org/, for practical tips on improving sleep in our kids.

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