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Sleep has a number of key health benefits for children and is important for their growth and overall development. Sleep is important for muscle growth, tissue repair and growth hormone release. Sleep is also critical for learning and memory consolidation, making sleep important for children to perform their best in school. Sleep is necessary for maintaining the overall health of our immune system and our metabolism.

The amount of sleep a child needs really depends on the age of the child. Newborns typically require the most sleep, which can be up to 14-17 hours per day. As children get older, their sleep requirements decrease so that by adolescence their sleep needs are similar to adults.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that toddlers get 12-15 hours of sleep and preschoolers 10-13 hours of sleep per day, including their daytime nap. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 9-11 hours of sleep per night for school-aged children, 8-10 hours of sleep for teenagers and 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults between 18 and 64. Adults aged 65+ need 7-8 hours of sleep.

Unfortunately, we know that many children and adults do not get the recommended amount of sleep each night. A 2004 National Sleep Foundation poll found that children of all ages got less than the recommended amount of sleep. Our sleep deprivation gets worse as children get older, with teenagers usually being the most sleep deprived age group.

A 2006 National Sleep Foundation poll found that 45% of adolescents got less than 8 hours of sleep per night, with high school seniors averaging only 6.9 hours of sleep on school nights. Adults do not usually fare much better, with about 40% of adults getting less than 7 hours of sleep each night.

Insufficient sleep is associated with daytime consequences, in which children can be very different than in adults. Most adults will present with symptoms of sleepiness such as falling asleep at work, while reading or watching TV. Children, on the other hand, can present with increased energy (hyperactivity) or problems with focus/concentration. They can sometimes look very similar to children with ADHD. In fact, children are sometimes misdiagnosed with ADHD when in the symptoms are really due to poor sleep.

Children can also present with more behavior problems or poorer school performance. Daytime sleepiness is also seen in children. For example, children may have a harder time getting up in the morning and may even be late for school as a result. They can also be more likely to fall asleep in the car or on the bus ride to school. Or, they can even fall asleep in the classroom, which can affect their ability to learn.

The National Sleep Foundation estimates that about 25% of teens fall asleep in the classroom at least once per week. Some children who are chronically sleep deprived will try to catch up on their sleep at home either through an after school nap or “sleeping in” on the weekends. If your child takes regular naps, especially if they are 45 minutes or longer, or if they “sleep in” more than 2 hours on the weekends, then your child may not be getting enough sleep.

If you have any concerns about your child’s sleep patterns, particularly if your child snores, pauses in their breathing during sleep, gasps for air, has mouth breathing, has frequent night awakenings or restless/sweaty sleep it is important that you talk to your child’s doctor as these could all be signs of obstructive sleep apnea. Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep could also be signs of other sleep problems that you should discuss with your child’s doctor.

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Question: I’m getting married this summer and want to be tan in my wedding photos and on my honeymoon. Will visiting the tanning salon a few times decrease my chances of getting a sunburn if I get a base tan? Also, aren’t tanning salons safer than laying out in the sun?

Answer: You’d be surprised how often these questions are asked! The short answer is NO and NO! Any type of tan is a sign of skin damage. A tan is the skin’s response to UV damage to the skin’s DNA. The skin darkens to prevent more damage, but your risk of skin cancer is already increased. There is no such thing as a “safe” or “healthy” tan.

Tanning beds deliver concentrated levels of UVA and UVB radiation, both of which cause cell damage that can lead to skin cancer. UVA radiation also penetrates deeper into the skin and causes irreversible skin aging like loss of elasticity, wrinkles and brown spots.

If you want to look tan in your wedding photos, try a sunless tanning cream or lotion. You can still get the glow you want without any of the skin damage.

As far as your honeymoon, take plenty of sunscreen with you. Look for a sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher, broad spectrum (blocking both UVA and UVB), and water-resistant. Be sure to apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outdoors, and to reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours or immediately after getting wet (for example, after getting out of a pool). Forgetting to reapply sunscreen throughout the day is the one step that most people forget during vacation and that leads to sunburns. Sunscreen only maintains its listed SPF for approximately 90 minutes, after which point the SPF starts to decrease and the sunscreen starts to lose its ability to block ultraviolet light. Shade and clothing can also help protect you from UV rays. Wear protective UV-blocking sunglasses, broad-brimmed hats and tightly-woven clothes and seek shade when possible. Getting into the habit of protecting yourself from UV rays is as simple as the steps above and will allow you to enjoy the outdoors without damaging your skin.

This article was originally published on May 18, 2015, and was updated on April 12, 2017.

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It’s that time of the year when runny noses, itchy eyes, and scratchy throats start. It is allergy season. For many people, when spring starts and trees and grass grow they start getting allergy symptoms. Allergies can happen all year, though.

Common environmental allergies can be due to dust mites, animals, pollen, grass and trees, just to name a few. Each of these allergies can happen more often in different times of the year. Grass and trees are often bothersome to people in spring, whereas pollens are in the late summer. Dust mite allergies can be found all year round.

When symptoms are bad, many people turn to medications for help. There are some things you can try prior to using medications. For example, for dust mite allergies you can try using dust mite covers on your pillow and bed. Staying in air conditioning may help symptoms when the pollen count is high. You can also flush out the allergens by using a netti pot or saline eye drops.

Medications that can be helpful include decongestants and antihistamines. Decongestants help relieve nasal congestion symptoms once they have started. Antihistamines block the histamine reaction and help prevent symptoms from happening. They often have to be taken several days to weeks prior to exposure to the allergens. Nasal steroids can also help decrease nasal congestion symptoms and work right at the source of the congestion. There are allergy eye drops that help with itchy, watery eyes too.

If you are having allergy symptoms that are not improving with over the counter medication, it is time to see your primary care doctor to discuss your symptoms. There may be another reason for your symptoms or other medication or treatments to consider. Allergy testing may also be needed to figure out what specifically you are allergic to so that you can avoid the allergen.

This article was originally published on March 20, 2015, and was updated on April 10, 2017.