Dr Judite Blanc: Sleep Needs, Poor Sleep Consequences Vary Between Children and Adults


Judite Blanc, PhD, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, discusses how total sleep needs vary among ages and the consequences of these changing hourly totals.

In this interview from SLEEP 2023, Judite Blanc, PhD, research assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the Center for Translational Sleep and Circadian Sciences, discusses how total sleep needs vary among ages and the consequences of these changing hourly totals.


What are key differences in sleep patterns, requirements, and challenges between children and adults?

We know already that sleep between children, adolescents, and adults is a matter of need; they don't [require] the same amount of sleep. For example, children in infants, it's about 17 hours of sleep that they have. After 4 months, it's about 14 to 15 [hours]. By the age of 4, it decreases to 11 hours; and [for] school-aged children, it's about 9 to 10. Adolescents, it's about 9. And then between adolescence and adult age, it's 7 to 8, and then all the adults, it's [about] 7 to 9 hours of sleep needed. We also know that in terms of the stages, for example, children, they spend more time in slow-wave sleep, which is the most important sleep you need.

But because of environmental demand, because of stress, there's also a gender influence in this. We know women tend to spend less time [and] have less access to slow-wave sleep. And we believe that this is probably due to hormonal modification and also the stress of life, the caregiving factor, social demand. And all adults, as they age they have more difficulty remaining deep sleep. We wake up easily.

And then in terms of the consequences of sleep problem by age: Children, again, when you're a kid, you spend most of your time at school. So if they are having poor sleep quality, this is the first domain that will be impacted—school performance, difficulty focusing in school. We have data showing that they are more hyperactive, they have greater issues of attention deficit and also mood issues. More and more, we are observing that in children and adolescents that are sleep deprived, they are also at greater risk of anxiety and depression and even more chronic diseases.

Compared with adults, there are similarities in terms of areas impacted between children and adults. When it comes to us [adults], we also have issue with memory, to memorize information. Poor sleep among adults is also associated with cognitive decline, chronic diseases, dementia. It's a matter of the chronicity: How long have you been sleep deprived? Whether the sleep issue went undiagnosed.

And among adults also, we have overwhelming data showing chronic diseases such as metabolic disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, even cancer, those chronic diseases, catastrophic illnesses, they are associated with poor sleep health among adults.

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