Pre-Adolescence: Ages 10-14
PILLAR FOUR: SLEEP
As with the other age groups, adequate sleep is essential to reduce the risk of obesity for pre-adolescence children ages 10 to 14. The National Sleep Foundation recommends they get nine to 11 hours of sleep nightly.
This group can encounter the same sleep disturbances as when they were younger, especially obstructive sleep apnea, but also may have sleep difficulties from excessive screen time from TVs, phones, laptops, and tablets. Here is how both can interfere with their sleep.
Screen time. Overexposure to screen time is a constant issue with all school-age children; however, it is more relevant among pre-adolescents as they become tech-savvy and more interested in social media. One study found that 89 percent of adolescents have at least one electronic device in their bedroom, and most use it close to bedtime.
Much research has shown that too much screen time during the day, especially before sleep, can affect sleep duration and quality. Two possible reasons are psychological stimulation from social media and the Internet, and exposure to blue (short wavelength) light emission from screens, which can disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythm and suppress the sleep hormone melatonin. Parents can address these problems by monitoring their children’s daily screen time and blocking all electronic devices at least two hours before bedtime.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). OSA is a disorder in which a sleeping person experiences either partial upper airway obstruction for prolonged periods or complete upper airway obstruction intermittently.
Children with OSA frequently snore with periodic pauses or gasps in their breathing. Snoring can disrupt their sleep and cause problems with attention, concentration, and daytime sleepiness.
Overweight or obese children are at higher risk for OSA, yet symptoms often improve when children maintain a healthier weight.
Always screen children for snoring during wellness checks. Refer any child who snores three or more nights per week, and has any OSA symptoms, to a sleep medicine physician/sleep lab, or a pediatric ear, nose, and throat physician. A polysomnography—a test used to diagnose sleep disorders—can diagnose OSA.
Some children with OSA may need to use a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine at night. However, this is a second-line option for children who are not surgical candidates as it is often poorly tolerated.