How does sleep help kids grow? -, Albany News, Weather, Sports

How does sleep help kids grow?

It's an age-old question: How much sleep do people really need to function and stay fit?

Dr. Cara Natterson, a pediatrician, reveals the shocking facts about how critical sleep is --especially for children.

"Sleep is a critical ingredient to good growth, and the amount of sleep we need depends upon our age," says Dr. Natterson. "Little babies, newborns and infants get somewhere around 16 hours of sleep for every 24 hours, give or take. Toddlers need about 14 hours of sleep in every 24 hours."

Toddlers usually get part of their sleep with daytime naps. Most will drop their naps by kindergarten.

"By the time you're at school age, you need 10 hours of overnight sleep. And then we sit at 10 hours for awhile," she continues. "When I say 10 hours for school-age kids, that's a minimum. Kids do better with sleep. Their brain is rested; they're not as moody. They're not grumpy," says Dr. Natterson.

One critical function of sleep is the big release of growth hormone that takes place.

"For growing kids, it helps your muscles grow and your bones grow," says Dr. Natterson. "But even for adults, there are benefits to growth hormone, because all of us have growth hormone that goes to our liver. And that liver stimulation releases another hormone, which helps our metabolism. It helps us burn through our calories well and it makes us leaner. Studies show that kids who sleep longer are leaner."

Dr. Natterson shares that she is strict about sleep when it comes to her own kids.

"I really try to have a regular bedtime during the week in order to get them at least those 10 hours," she says. "Our routine is that we're brushing our teeth by about 7:00 and then there's reading time that lasts at least a half an hour. That reading time is critical – it's wind-down time for the brain. It's really important in terms of a foundation of learning, and it's great family time."

While growth hormone is released throughout the day, Dr. Natterson say that it peaks when you go to sleep. She also notes that it doesn't matter if it's day or night -- only that you are asleep.

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