Sleep Disturbances and Sleep Pattern Changes in Children and Adolescents

Sleep is a cyclic daily event essential for regulating and stabilizing metabolic, physiological, hormonal, emotional and intellectual processes. According to the Israeli Pediatric Association and the Israel Sleep Research Society, recommended number of hours sleep per age are as follows: 0-3 months: 14-17 hours, 4-11 months: 12-15 hours, 1-2 years: 11-14 hours, 3-5 years: 10-13 hours, 6-13 years: 9-12 hours, 14-17 years: 8-10 hours. However, according to findings from an American Sleep Society survey, 45% of young people sleep less than recommended (less than 8 hours) and only 20% get the optimal amount of sleep (9 hours or more).

Sleep consists of cycles of several stages which repeat themselves during the night. Each stage is characterized by different brain and physiological activity.


Sleep disturbances are expressed as difficulty falling asleep, difficulty maintaining sleep continuity, sleeping at “inappropriate” times, breathing disturbances during sleep and even abnormal behaviors appearing only during sleep.

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sleep disturbances



The consequences or the damage caused by sleep disturbances may vary according to which sleep stage is disturbed. Nevertheless, in some cases there is normal variation in sleep pattern as a result of people’s social/psychological requirements and/or as a result of lack of “sleep hygiene”, (see box) a situation which is particularly prominent amongst children and adolescents.



Insufficient sleep, changes and postponement of sleep hours and sleep disturbances are reported by children and adolescents around the world. Studies have shown that between 20%-50% of kindergarten and school age children experience sleep problems, and about 4% of children have been diagnosed with a sleep related illness. In studies conducted amongst adolescents in Israel and around the world it has been found that many of them experience sleep problems mainly because of shorter sleep than recommended causing prolonged sleep deprivation. 


*This review was prepared with the assistance and guidance of Prof. Tamar Shochat, The Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences, Haifa University and Mr. Amit Green from the Assuta Health Center Sleep Institute



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Updated: 15.7.2018