A consultant paediatric neurologist has seen patterns of sleep disorders rooted in childhood. He reminds parents as well as other adult family members to discipline their children or wards with regards sleep hours.
Dr Hamza Ahmad Alsayouf who manages the Kids Neuro Clinic and Rehab Centre at Dubai Healthcare City released to Gulf Today the recommended daily sleep hours — including the naptimes — of infants to age 18 — by the American Academy of Paediatrics:
- Ages four to 12 months – 12 to 16 hours
- Ages one to two years – 11 to 14 hours
- Ages three to five years old – 10 to 13 hours
- Ages six to 12 years old – nine to 12 hours
- Ages 13 to 18 years old – eight to 10 hours.
The alarm was raised over the need for children to be trained to sleep from eight to 16 hours a day, depending on the age group, as Alsayouf has observed from the mid-2000s that the youth, having been too much oriented to all media platforms — even before bedtime — have fallen prey to otherwise preventable physical and mental stresses.
He said, “Yes, insomnia and sleep problems can run in families like any other disorder.”
Among Alsayouf’s sleep disorder patients in the UAE and in the US are sufferers of “poor attention, hyperactivity, depressed mood, anxiety, aggressive behaviour, and poor cognition or learning.”
Long term negative outcomes are “poor (eating habits), sedative behaviour, obesity, reduced immunity, stunted growth, depression, suicidal tendencies, and substance abuse.”
Also a qualified epileptologist (an expert in epileptic and other kinds of seizures), Alsayouf opted to practise Paediatrics Neurology (dealing with the youth going through challenges affecting the nervous system, spinal and the brain), because children neurologic patients are “usually chronic patients who constitute almost 11 per cent of all chronic cases in children (and) who need ongoing support and treatment.”
He emphasized the good number of sleeping hours which would be the channel for children of all ages to the state of REM (Rapid Eye Movement).
REM is associated with the increase production of proteins, similar to deep sleep that stimulates all parts of the brain which enhances normal brain development.
According to Alsayouf, “studies in recent years have demonstrated that conventional electronic devices (including the TV set) adversely impact sleep.”
He has observed that “sleep pattern is getting worse nowadays due to the media which children are even encouraged to (indulge in even before bedtime.)”
Consequently, children find it difficult to doze off to slumber because of two things.
One, the “rays from these media, particularly from the smart phones and tablets impede the flow of the melatonin hormone “needed for sleep.”
Two, the children are excited they could not go to the REM stages of sleep.
Alsayouf said parents visit him for these issues and concerns: “I try to always remind and emphasize to them that sleep hygiene is very important.”
On the afternoon naps, Alsayouf pointed out that toddlers and kids must do so for a maximum of two hours a day.
However, this must be decreased as they grow older but they must be in bed from eight o’clock in the night to six in the morning, the following day.
He encourages or even recommends school authorities to allow children to sleep for 30 minutes after the lunch hour.
Alsayouf argued, “Sleep is a major requirement for good health. For young kids to get enough of it, some daytime sleep is usually needed. Naps are important since these serve as the downtime for growth and rejuvenation; to avoid fatigue and stress and for physical and mental development, for the regulation of the emotional, cardiovascular and metabolic functions, and for cellular toxin removal.”
Adults would also benefit. As the children are asleep, adults would have their own “me time” as well as the time for house chores and other duties.