The importance of sleep in children and adolescents.

For: Annette Y. López Martínez, MD, FAAP, FACR

Pediatric Rheumatologist, SER of Puerto Rico

Regularly in clinical consultations, parents express concern about chronic fatigue in their children. It is a symptom that pediatricians see regularly and even more so in this time when the routine of the day has been affected by the Pandemic.

The way I have to evaluate those cases is by asking the following information:

1-How long does the patient sleep?

2-What time do you go to bed, what time do you get up?

3-Do you get up many times at night? Can you fall asleep easily?

4-What is your routine before going to bed? Are you exposed to television, video games, cell phones?

5-Do you take naps during the day?

All of these questions are important in reviewing your child's sleep hygiene habits.

Restful sleep occurs in different phases at night. If the child sleeps little, or his sleep is interrupted or fragmented, this can cause chronic fatigue, muscle pain, joint pain, depression and poor academic performance.

If you think your child has chronic fatigue, talk to your pediatrician about the cause. If your pediatrician does not find a medical condition, you can discuss the following recommendations with your child.

1-Practice sleep hygiene: always go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time.

2-Rest in a dark room without distractions.

3-Avoid watching TV, or using electronic tools just before going to bed.

4-Remove the cell phone from the minor's room and return it in the morning.

5-Use relaxation techniques with your child such as: breathing, muscle stretching, religious prayers if you practice any religion.

6-Prevent your child from sleeping late- this encourages them not to eat breakfast or meals that are important for their growth.

7-In adolescents with insomnia problems: Do not allow them to take naps during the day, better advance bedtime to an earlier time.

8-Practice daily walks, around your house or cardiovascular exercise through videos, etc.

7-Remember that a child or adolescent must sleep between 8-11 hours a day to grow healthy and have emotional stability.

If you think your child is suffering from sleep problems associated with muscle or joint pain, discuss with your pediatrician for a referral to the Pediatric Rheumatologist.