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Sleep Health During COVID: How much shuteye do kids really need while learning virtually?

Catching enough z's while spending so much time at home lately can be tough for kids with so many distractions. So what should children be aiming for?

Throughout this week, Newswatch 16 This Morning shared tips from the pros on everything from school lunch ideas for virtual learners to keeping active while stuck at home.

Another question some asked on Newswatch 16's Ryan Leckey's Facebook page, "how can you help get your kids back into a better sleep routine when they don’t have to wake up and rush off to school every day?" 

For answers and tips, Newswatch 16 turned to Dr. Anne Marie Morse, a pediatric neurologist and sleep specialist at Geisinger. 

Ryan joined Dr. Morse just outside of Danville to tackle all things sleep with kids, especially since some are struggling to get enough of it while being stuck at home during the pandemic with so many distractions lately like video games and television. 

The following tips and information are all courtesy of Geisinger and Dr. Anne Marie Morse: 

  • The number of hours of sleep needed varies by age, the younger you are the more sleep you may need. The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following number of total hours of sleep per 24 hours. Between the ages of 0 and 5 years old, the total sleep time may represent a longer night sleep plus daytime naps.

Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range 14-17 hours each day 

Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range 12-15 hours 

Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range 11-14 hours 

Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range 10-13 hours 

School age children (6-13): Sleep range 9-11 hours

Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range 8-10 hours 

Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours 

Adults (26-64): Sleep range 7-9 hours

Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours  

  • For school aged children, 5 years and older, daytime napping should alert you that there may be a sleep problem. It may be that your child is not sleeping enough, not having the best sleep quality or could be a sign of a hypersomnia disorder. Consider speaking with your doctor about your child’s sleep.

Sleep only as much as you need to feel refreshed during the following day. Restricting your time in bed helps to consolidate and deepen your sleep. Excessively long times in bed lead to fragmented and shallow sleep. Get up at your regular time the next day, no matter how little you slept.

Get up at the same time each day, 7 days a week. A regular wake time in the morning leads to regular times of sleep onset, and helps to set your "biological clock."

Exercise regularly. Schedule exercise times so that they do not occur within 3 hours of when you intend to go to bed. Exercise makes it easier to initiate sleep and deepen sleep.

Make sure your bedroom is comfortable and free from light and noise. A comfortable, noise-free sleep environment will reduce the likelihood that you will wake up during the night. Noise that does not awaken you may also disturb the quality of your sleep. Carpeting, insulated curtains, and closing the door may help.

Make sure that your bedroom is at a comfortable temperature during the night. Excessively warm or cold sleep environments may disturb sleep.

Eat regular meals and do not go to bed hungry. Hunger may disturb sleep. A light snack at bedtime (especially carbohydrates) may help sleep, but avoid greasy or "heavy" foods.

Avoid excessive liquids in the evening. Reducing liquid intake will minimize the need for nighttime trips to the bathroom.

Cut down on all caffeine products. Caffeinated beverages and foods (coffee, tea, cola, chocolate) can cause difficulty falling asleep, awakenings during the night, and shallow sleep. Even caffeine early in the day can disrupt nighttime sleep.

Don't take your problems to bed. Plan some time earlier in the evening for working on your problems or planning the next day's activities. Worrying may interfere with initiating sleep and produce shallow sleep.

Train yourself to use the bedroom only for sleeping . This will help condition your brain to see bed as the place for sleeping. Do not read, watch TV, or eat in bed.

Do not try to fall asleep. This only makes the problem worse. Instead, turn on the light, leave the bedroom, and do something different like reading a book. Don't engage in stimulating activity. Return to bed only when you are sleepy.

Put the clock under the bed or turn it so that you can't see it. Clock watching may lead to frustration, anger, and worry, which interfere with sleep.

Avoid naps. Staying awake during the day helps you to fall asleep at night.

  • Sleep is an important part of growth, development and overall health. In fact, sleep plays a critical role in learning by making things learned during the day more permanent in our “brain bank”, mood stability, resulting in less irritability and better focus, and improved immune function helping reduce likelihood of getting sick.

  • When we go back to school, sleep scheduling is really important. Keep a regular bedtime and wake time, seven days a week. Ensure that you are in bed for only for sleep and not using it for other activities like school work or video games. At night reduce exposure to bright lights and screens (TV, cell, computers) to help improve melatonin production. In the morning, get out of bed at the wake time and keep active and exposed to bright light (daylight) as much as possible during the daytime.