Anyone who has ever watched children get on a school bus before the sun is up in the morning or teens walk into their first class clutching a jug of coffee knows that too many young people aren’t getting enough sleep. In fact, experts say that more than a third of the U.S. population doesn’t.
Now, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has just released, for the first time, its recommendations for how much sleep children and teens should get to avoid health risks.
The academy also said that children and teens who do not sleep the recommended amount put themselves at risk for obesity, diabetes, depression, behavior and learning problems, hypertension and more. For teens, there’s more: an increased risk of suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts and self-harm, the panel said.
The recommendations are:
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▪ Infants 4 to 12 months should sleep 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
▪ Children 1 to 2 years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
▪ Children 3 to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
▪ Children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep nine to 12 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
▪ Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep eight to 10 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
Teens getting up to 10 hours of sleep? Remember that teens, because of unique sleep patterns driven by their circadian rhythms, have a hard time falling asleep before 11 p.m., and their brains stay in sleep mode until at least 8 a.m. With school often starting very early in the morning, teens can’t get eight to 10 hours of sleep.
That’s why in 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement recommending that middle and high schools start class no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Some school districts have moved their start times, but most haven’t, meaning that most teens who go to school are likely to carry on without the recommended sleep.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says it is the only professional society dedicated exclusively to the medical sub-specialty of sleep medicine. Its release of the sleep recommendations came after a 10-month study conducted by a panel of 13 leading sleep experts that reviewed 864 published scientific articles about the relationship between sleep and children’s health and evaluated the evidence.
These recommendations are endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Sleep Research Society and the American Association of Sleep Technologists.