Reflect on your sleep last night. How many hours of sleep did you get? Was the television on? Did you look at your phone right before lying down?

Sleep is something that many of us might take for granted at times. Between parenting, caring for family members, work, traveling and social life obligations, we are busy. We cannot forget the importance of sleep.

We need to focus not only on the quantity of our sleep but also on the quality of our sleep.

From infancy, it is important to establish a consistent routine with bedtime and sleep habits. Infants do not naturally become good sleepers; we have to help them learn these behaviors. By teaching babies over the age of 6 months how to soothe themselves to sleep, by promoting sleeping in their own crib or other safety-approved sleep space, and by having a consistent bedtime routine, we can establish those habits from the beginning. Let us not forget how important for safety reasons it is for infants to sleep in their own space and not sleep with parents or caregivers.

The American Academy of Pediatrics published a guideline on the recommended amount of sleep for children. Infants aged 4 to 12 months should sleep for 12 to 16 hours in a 24-hour period. Children aged 3 to 5 years should sleep 10 to 13 hours in a 24-hour period. Teenagers aged 13 to 18 years should sleep 8 to 10 hours in a 24-hour period on a regular basis.

The importance of the appropriate amount and good quality of sleep should not go overlooked. Inadequate sleep has been proved to be linked to increased rates of attention deficit behaviors, other behavioral or emotional problems, depression, obesity and even the ability to retain information learned in the classroom and memory retention.

One study found that adolescents aged 11 to 17 years of age who slept less than or equal to 6 hours per night, compared to a group of the same age range who slept 8 hours or more each night, had a threefold increased likelihood of developing depression symptoms.

Certain electronic devices emit a type of light known to inhibit our own natural release of melatonin, the hormone produced in our bodies that helps us go to sleep. Making efforts to remove screens from children’s rooms and turning off all devices 30 minutes before bedtime can help avoid any effect on sleep quality. Rooms should also be quiet and dark, with only ambient light if needed.

Getting back to the basics can often make a big difference in our health. By working to improve our quality and quantity of sleep, we may all be surprised to find how much better we feel.

Morgan Windham, DNP, MSN, CPNP-PC, is a certified pediatric nurse practitioner who practices at CareSouth Carolina’s Bishopville office.

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