Sunday, October 02, 2011

Tackling bad sleep habits key for children: study

Screening children for sleeping problems and discussing sleep strategies with parents could help youngsters settle into school with better nighttime routines, according to a study from Australia.

Study author Jon Quach, from the University of Melbourne, and his team found that when they had sleeprelated consultations with parents, children tended to have fewer sleep problems and better bedtime habits than children whose parents didn't get counselled.

The study was published in Pediatrics.

In five-and six-year-olds, most sleep problems are related to poor habits, researchers said. "They are going to bed too late, they don't have a bedtime routine, and many of them are still having parents stay with them when they go to sleep at night," said Jodi Mindell, a pediatric sleep specialist at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, who was not involved with the study.

About 1,500 parents were surveyed for the study, which focused on the backto-school time frame and included children heading into their first year of elementary school. Quach said that's an important window for addressing sleep problems, because children who don't sleep well might have more trouble making the transition to school, which sets them up for poor academic performance.

Mindell said the study points to a need for teachers and school psychologists to look for sleep problems, adding simple changes could help. "Making sure your child goes to bed before nine - we know that that's the tipping point - [and] including reading as part of the bedtime routine - it helps calm children down, it gives them a focus, it helps with literacy, it's all good. Then encouraging children to fall asleep on their own," she said.

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