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The number of children referred to hospital sleep consultants in the UK has risen by almost three times in the last ten years, with 5992 reported NHS cases in 2012. The types of sleep disorders that these cases covered ranged from difficulties in getting to sleep or staying asleep for a sufficient period, through to potentially harmful conditions such as sleep apnoea.
The figures may point to changing lifestyles for under-15s, with access to mobile technology such as smart-phones and tablet computers making it hypothetically easier to stay switched on after-hours, whereas traditionally a TV or video game would have a clear switch-off time enforced by parents. Diet may also be a contributory factor in the sharp rise in child sleep disorders that require medical attention, with obesity levels on the increase.
While sleep is of course a vitally important part of our lives whatever age we are, it is of crucial importance to children as they go through enormous physical and mental development phases in a relatively short period, along with requiring high levels of energy and stamina – again both mental and physical – to be successful at school.
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