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Dec 19, 2013

Healthy Living looks at the importance of sleep

Believe it or not, one of the best gifts you can give to your children this holiday is a good night’s sleep. It also won’t hurt if you do the same for yourself. And if you need a bit more convincing, then this week’s segment of healthy living will help you understand why we must never underestimate the importance of sleep.


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Sleepwalking may be a source of comedy in cartoons and movies, and while it seems a bit farfetched, it does exist and can be a precursor to sleep problems in both children and adults. Less than one percent of adults and between seven to eight percent of children are sleepwalkers.


Dr. Joel Cervantes, Neurosurgeon

“Sleepwalking is not dreaming; let’s put a line there. Dreaming we can connect to rapid eye movements. Sleepwalking we connect to that deep sleep phase; it is a slow deep sleep phase.”


The range of activities from the harmless sitting up in the bed, to the more unnerving like wandering around or even outside of the house.  So why, do they do what they do?


Dr. Joel Cervantes

Joel Cervantes

“It is thought that there are certain tasks that we place during the day. And this is ironic because it could be fitting for adults, but perhaps not for children. So we place tasks that we want to accomplish during the day, which we don’t really accomplish. And when we are in this deep stage of sleep, some sort of stimulus that might want to make us wake up kicks off for us to start sleepwalking.”


Dr. Cervantes’ advice is to see them through the activity so they don’t hurt themselves. It is very unlikely that you can wake them for this deep sleep. It is very important to pay attention to the frequency of this behavior, most children should outgrow sleepwalking.


Dr. Joel Cervantes

“Any child for example that’s starts to sleepwalk before the age of nine, there is an easier possibility that when you go into adolescence you will outgrow it. If it starts later than that, when the person is prepubescent or going into adolescence—perhaps around twelve—that’s the child that will take it into adulthood and perhaps not outgrow it or outgrow it in adulthood. We have to see what activities our children are having; we need to see every angle about our children’s lives. What is happening at school because school is like their workplace? What is happening in the home environment? Is there any dissatisfaction? Do they have any illnesses? Something very frequent that can lead to sleepwalking is fever that we have not identified. Fever is a stimulus to set off sleepwalking, especially in our children and we have to know our kids. A newborn up to one year of age would sleep up to sixteen hours per day. Between the age of one to five, it is going to be a little bit less; perhaps eleven to thirteen hours per day. Between one to five, children are going to nap. Five to twelve, we are going to find that they gonna sleep perhaps between nine to about eleven hours. Then we go twelve to eighteen approximately and people sleep approximately nine hours.”


As for adults, we should aim for seven  and a half to eight hours of sleep, while elder persons, sixty five and over, should get as much sleep as possible. It is not wasted time in adults or children.


Dr. Joel Cervantes

“Children that have problems sleeping when they go into adulthood can have serious health problems. Disorders in sleep lead eventually many times to obesity, high blood pressure. And something very important, children that don’t sleep well are the ones that end up seeing the pediatricians and the family’s general doctors because they have frequent infections. You know that if a child sleeps well naturally, they are going to be ok.  We have a misconception that sleep is like we shut off. The brain never shuts off. The body already has a way to know when we need sleep and that goes hand in hand with what we call our biological clock that is influenced by our daily activities; all our daily activities. Quite simply, we have daytime activities that are programmed. The brains are going to shut off a couple things when we go to sleep and it is going to click on other things that we need to clean our brain up and to make it activate during the night. So sleep is no less important than being awake.

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