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Keep a tab on sleep cycle of children, UAE doctors say

A complete no-screen policy 30 mins before bed time is advised.

Reuters file photo
Reuters file photo

By SM Ayaz Zakir

Published: Sat 29 Jan 2022, 6:08 PM

Last updated: Sat 29 Jan 2022, 10:40 PM

During a question-and-answer session at Expo 2020 Dubai, Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo hit upon a topic which has become a major concern for many parents. The ace footballer advised parents to minimize their children's screen time and allow them to have adequate sleeping time.

Considering the sedentary lifestyle, lack of physical activity and increased screen time these days, medicos in the UAE have urged residents to keep a tab on their children’s sleeping patterns as it can affect their overall health.

“Parents have a very big role to play. The have to maintain their children's schedule in a way that their sleep cycle and overall health does not get affected,” said Dr Puneet Wadhwa, specialist Paediatrician at Prime Hospital.

Sleeping pattern among children underwent a lot of changes due to the pandemic. The primary reasons, medicos say, are sedentary lifestyle, reduced physical and mental activity, increased screen time due to distance learning, no set time for waking or going to bed, having more late nights and family activities, as they don’t have to go to school.

Parents should address the following red flags that affect a child’s behaviour, said Dr Rimzim Gupta, Specialist Pediatrician, Thumbay University Hospital. “Increased screen time, reduced physical activity and going to bed quite late affects the induction of sleep. Waking time is also delayed."

“Research shows that poor sleeping pattern increases the sleep time. Kids end up sleeping during the day, which not only affects their eating pattern but also learning capabilities as well as their overall productivity,” she added.

“Parents should ensure that children should not wake up late. They should go to bed on the time. Parents should also encourage kids to get into some physical activities during daytime, minimise screen time, apart from distance learning, give a healthy, balanced diet and avoid junk food,” said Dr Wadhwa.

Doctors believe that prolonged sleep irregularities may lead to chronic sleep deprivation. Our body tries to make up for lost sleep the next time or day you go to sleep. “The child may sleep more during the daytime if he/she goes to bed late in night. If parents insist, or due to distance learning, the child has to wake up early. This disturbs the sleep cycle rhythm and over time results in sleep deprivation,” he added.

“This may lead to lack of focus while studying or doing other tasks. It may also result in poor appetite, irritability, getting angry or scared easily,” Dr Wadhwa further said.

Doctors also pointed out that sleep cycle disruption does not allow the body and the brain to function to its full capacity. The ability to learn and absorb new things is also adversely affected, with reduced concentration while learning.

“First of all, normalise their sleeping pattern and make them have adequate sleep/rest, at least 8-10 hours a day,” said Dr Wadhwa.

“In extreme situations, wherein children get too anxious, and it affects their daily activities or are unable to sleep , immediate attention should be sought to meet their paediatrician who can further guide and counsel accordingly, he added.

Dr Gupta mentioned a few techniques to follow to improve the socio-ecological behaviour of their children:

>> Sunlight exposure during the day should be encouraged by the parents.

>> Bedtime and wake time schedules should be established, with a complete ‘no-screen’ policy 30 mins before bed time.

>> To ease the anxiety related to the pandemic, parents should share age-appropriate information on the importance of restrictions and social distancing.

>> Mindful practices like guided meditation, gentle yoga, listening to relaxing music also can be implemented.


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