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Dr. Ayala

Dr. Ayala
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
V.P. Product Development
Herbal Water
I’m a physician (Pediatrics and Medical Genetics), artist, and mother of 3 school age active kids. I recently co-founded Herbal Water Inc. (www.herbalwater.com) with my husband, Albert. I am a serious home cook, and love to entertain. My expertise is vegetarian food (I have been a vegetarian all my life). I strongly believe that eating healthy and enjoying good food go hand in hand. My main interests are science, nutrition and art, and I am overall a very curious person that tries to learn something new every day. Dr. Ayala (Ayala Laufer-Cahana M.D.)


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Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 29, 2012 7:48AM

Kids aren’t getting enough sleep -- and they never have

Rate: 8 Flag

Sleep’s a mysterious thing. We’re not sure what sleep is and why we need it, but we do know sleep is critical to our health and wellbeing. Lack of sleep has been associated with pretty much all that ails humans, and recently it has been also blamed for rising obesity rates.

Parents loose sleep worrying about sleep. Most parents believe their kids don’t get enough of it. We blame it on overscheduling, iPads, YouTube or our busy state of mind, but whatever it is, sleep’s always insufficient.

Sleep concerns are nothing new

A new study in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics finds concerns over kids’ sleep from the early 1900s were much similar to our concerns today. The researchers, led by Lisa Anne Matricciani, tracked more than a century’s worth of advice in more than 200 articles regarding children’s sleep, and compared it to data on how much kids actually slept over the years.

Kids always slept less that what health professionals thought they should -- about 37 minutes less than recommendations.

With the passing century sleep recommendations have also shrunk by a rate of about 0.71 minutes per year.

Our kids are indeed sleeping less: Sleep has declined about 0.73 minutes per year in the past century. That amounts to our kids slumbering about 20 minutes less than we did, and 40 minutes less than their grandparents. 

“Modern Living” robs kids’ dreams

Our great grandparents shared our perception of life going faster and faster, and a British Medical Journal editorial from 1894, titled “Sleeplessness”, cited in the article, states “The hurry and excitement of modern life is quite correctly held to be responsible for much of the insomnia of which we hear.” 

The novel preoccupation of the day has always been charged with keeping kids away from shuteye: first it was books, then the radio, and later TV, the Internet and social media.

How much sleep do kids need?

Despite finding 35 sets of recommendations about optimal sleep duration, the study discovers that the sleep need of kids remains a big unknown. Recommendations were based largely on opinions, which were based on, well, nothing really.  We have no scientific clue how much sleep kids need.

But in case you’re curious about current recommendations take a look here; these, too, I assume are based on observations and very little evidence. If your kid is tired and cranky, he’s not getting enough sleep. 

The kids are all right 

There was something comforting about reading this research. It suggests we’re just a link in a generational chain of worrying parents.

When my kids ask why I worry about them so much I say it’s mom’s job to worry. I guess it used to served our species well to be cautious and protective of our young. 

We may long for bygone, simpler times, but the kids never slept enough, whatever that enough might be, and nevertheless, they’re probably going to turn out just fine. 

Dr. Ayala


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>If your kid is tired and cranky, he’s not getting enough sleep.

Took me a while, but I finally realized that my son - who has highly irregular sleeping habits - is smart enough to figure out his body would let him know when it wanted rest. Instead of chasing him around the house half the night herding him to bed, I point out from time-to-time that he might benefit from more sleep and he generally agrees.
I think parents underestimate the importance of sleep and its impact on mood and behavior. That doesn't mean that parents should make a big issue out of it but life is a lot easier for everyone when kids go to bed early.
Time always speeds up when you are older. At ten, a year is a tenth of your life. At fifty, a mere 2%.

You note, inherent in all this research is the assumption that one number will define the needs of all kids in one age group. I'm always amazed at how easily we accept variation in things that are visible, while less visible things are assumed to be constant. No one would ever define one shoe size for five year olds and expect it to fit every five year old foot.
This is interesting!

I'm going to wake up my kid so he can read this.
I believe my parents did a good job of making sure I got plenty of sleep. However, now I noticed as I got older that they didn't do a very good job of making sure they themselves got good sleep and I see myself following their bad behavior now. For example, I should be in bed now. I'm doomed. Doooooooooooooooomed!
Yay. I've been worrying about my son's sleep since the early years. He doesn't have insomnia or anything but our schedule is so busy--my work situation had me bringing him home after 9 p.m. when he was in pre-K. We've stabilized and he's 10 now and I still think about his sleep--but I'm going to stop worrying.
The Kid goes to sleep around 6:30 to 7pm and gets up between (argh) 5:30 and 6:30am. She hasn't napped since she was two. Alas. She gets enough sleep, I'm happy to say. Now, if only I did ...
Good points all...sleeping children are a blessing wrapped in snores.
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............... *•.¸.•* ♥⋆★•❥ Thanx, Smiles (ツ) & ♥ L☼√Ξ ☼ ♥
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Dr. Ayala,

What a great post and congratulations on the EP!

Is anyone here on Open Salon getting enough sleep? I think not. :)

I am a teenager and i will admit that i well probly only get a few hours of sleep a day