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The sleep of children impacted by the war: “They must keep their carelessness”, warn the specialists


One in two children has irregular bedtimes and sleep time that is not age-appropriate, reveals a survey by the National Institute of Sleep and Vigilance. Pediatricians, child psychiatrists and neuro-psychologists point to the impact of screens, and parental habits, in an otherwise anxiety-provoking context: after the Covid, the war in Ukraine.

One in two children spends more than an hour on a screen after 5 p.m. on weekdays, with a significant impact on sleep, “52% of children and 45% of children under 3 have irregular (bedtime) hours and sleep durations according to age are not respected”, recalls a survey by the National Institute of Sleep and Vigilance. It also reveals the weight of parental habits: “When parents suffer from a sleep disorder, children are more exposed to it”, 33% against 24% in the general population. And the influence of external events, such as the Covid crisis or the war in Ukraine, can aggravate the problem.

“In kindergarten, you have to see what they have in mind”

“War adds to other concerns. Nighttime is a time when children can imagine more worrying things,” warns Marie-Rose Moro, child psychiatrist, at AP-HP and Cochin, in Paris. For her, teenagers are on the front line.

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For 0-3 year olds: “It all depends on the state of mind of those around you”, and “we can already put words to what concerns them, name things to prevent them from being too disturbed” .

When they enter kindergarten, “the children have a partial representation of the situation, you have to answer their questions, and see what they have in their heads, these are sometimes representations that are more disturbing than reality”. Rather than waiting for the evening, she advises setting aside listening time during the day, citing the example of this mother who arrived in her consultation with “an even more anxious child than usual, who asks questions over and over. on the war at bedtime. We must close the discussion, the child must keep his lightness and his carelessness”, insists the child psychiatrist.

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With children in primary school, who “begin to have notions of geopolitics”, “we must discuss concrete things, what worries them, what the war can reveal positive, solidarity, the way to resist too “.

Finally, for teenagers: “They are worried, and often very angry in the face of a world that is going through a succession of crises. With social networks, they have access to a lot of images and information. their anger and concern”.

The time and quality of sleep in children are not insignificant questions: “According to the longitudinal studies Elfe and Eden, sleep debt and/or phase shifts are indeed accompanied by a risk of cognitive disorders, mood and behavior, but also overweight, sleep apnea, metabolic problems”, warns the INSV, knowing that “sufficient sleep is also necessary for good growth”.

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