As Healthy People 2020 (HP2020) draws to the conclusion of its decade, one of the newest issues has been established based on the lack of Americans receiving adequate sleep, as well as causing a major disruption in their ability to function effectively. Unfortunately, about 25 percent report having problems either staying asleep or not getting adequate sleep to function properly the next day. A new target group has been brought into the forefront by HP2020 includes Early and Middle Childhood (EMC). The goal for this age group is to promote overall “health and well-being” and the importance of enhancing five chief components of: “cognitive, social, emotional, language, and physical development” by creating a healthy pathway to a long life (Healthy People, 2016).
According to National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR), an estimated 70 million Americans suffer from sleep problems, in which 60 percent are chronic disorders. The NCSDR also estimates $15.9 billion to the national health care bill are correlated to sleep disorders, sleep deprivation, and generalized sleepiness. Consequently, this has increased the cost of lost work production, accidents connected to lack of sleep, and/or contribute to other health problems (National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, 2016).
Currently, HP 2020 has one objective specifically for EMC-3 it aimed to “decrease the proportion of children who have poor quality of sleep (Healthy People, 2016).” During the early childhood years, it is important that functions of language, cognitive, and motor and emotional regulation to merge into the middle childhood years. Key components in this age group are the ability to adapt self-discipline, eating and sleep habits, health literacy, conflict negotiation and decreasing illness brought on by unhealthy patterns (Catherall & Williams-Jones, 2011) (Healthy People, 2016).
However, sleep is vital in funding a balance of every day function, it boosts academic performance, increases ability to fight infection, aids in critical decision making, creativity, decreases negative behaviors, and capable to maintain healthy emotional relationships with peers and family members (Catherall & Williams-Jones, 2011). In Managing Sleep Problems in Children by Catherall and Williams-Jones gave further insight to parents and caregivers, a strict routine is essential to assist the child to develop healthy sleep habits. As child’s routine consists of bathing 30 minutes prior to settling into bed. Useful tools that can be added to the nighttime tool box may be a story, singing a song, talking about the day, and brushing teeth. They also recommend not deviating from nighttime routine and do not give in to the ‘just one more story’ or “just two more minutes’ (2011). Avoiding activities that can disrupt the normal routine, like an extra TV show or other stimulating devices that may prolong the ‘going to bed routine’.
Further supporting evidence was noted in an article Healthy People 2020: Implications for Pediatric Nurses by Meadows-Oliver and Jackson Allen, EMC need a minimum of 8-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Bedrooms should be a pleasant and inviting environment which should include cool temperature, not too hot, no bright, stimulating lights, and no large meals close to bedtime (as cited, 2012). Offering soft, soothing sounds of a fan will allow the child to fall asleep and will have an easier time falling back asleep if woken by sudden noises. Also, children who successfully receive their minimum required hours of sleep are more likely to have a healthier body weight (Stroebele, Mcnally, Plog, Siegfried, & Hill, 2013).
Subsequently, nurses are required to increased knowledge and to educate those who are in need. With the HP 2020 goals and objectives in mind, nurses must ensure it is done in an enriching manner to heighten the future of EMC and to assist in preventable illnesses. Nurses must facilitate the families and caregivers in finding a solution to a sleepless child in the early childhood and promote optimal devolvement during these crucial stages of childhood. Based on the overwhelming research found, there is a direct correlation between getting the minimum 8-10 hours of sleep for EMC and remaining in optimal health into adulthood (Stroebele et al., 2013). Nurses and other medical professionals on the local, state, and national level have begun to identify risks associated with poor sleep hygiene and continue to gauge individualized healthy sleep routines.
Professor Anna Adachi-Mejia, PhD, of Pediatrics at The Geisel School of Medicine and The Dartmouth Institute, who led a recently published research study related to the increased use of cell phones in the bedroom and sleep deprivation. Adachi-Mejia also goes on in a local Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth (CHaD) electronic newsletter, “when devices that interfere with sleep are removed, children are performers in academics, recreational activities, make healthy food choices, decreased obesity, and have better control over their own mental health when situations arise (Can you hear me now?, 2015).” Along with CHaD, the Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC) confirms there is a growing concern with the EMC population to reduce the risks associated with sleep deprivations with also agree that the focus starts in local communities, then state and national level. Additionally, online resources like childcareaware.org and myhealthconnections.org are used on a local, state, and national level; linking all parties involved is beneficial, provides evidence based practices, and backed by reputable sources to promoting healthier life style patterns. These websites are currently funded by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and continue to support the new recommendations and set guideline to promote well-being (New Hampshire Comprehensive Cancer Collaboration, 2015).
Finally, nurses must remain firm in upholding the HP 2020 objectives, creating a lasting sleep routine foundation, so that EMC have the ability to perform better in academics, recreational activities, opt for healthy food choices, and have better control over their own mental health when an event occurs. Ultimately, nightly sleep shortages create a profound and lasting cascade of events that are easily be prevented. An overwhelming amount of data was shown that forming healthy sleep hygiene habits renew EMC to function at their prime capacity and surpass the clutches of a sleep deprived society.