STRESSSleep

It’s tempting to let children miss their bedtime, especially when they pull out all the stops to convince you they’re really not tired. But that little zombie who staggers past you with glazed eyes in the morning probably isn’t ready to have a great day at school. He could act out on the bus, nod off during reading time, or have a spectacular meltdown on the playground—all because he didn’t get enough sleep.

Good sleep habits play a big role in children’s mental and physical health as well as their overall well-being. In fact, sleep is just as important to children’s development as nutrition and physical activity. Sleep researchers have found toddlers regularly deprived of sleep often appear so robotic and joyless that they seem to have morphed into tiny depressed adults. (Fortunately, they tend to quickly return to their energetic, high-spirited selves when they get enough rest.)

Children who have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) may have an especially hard time getting enough sleep. Paying special attention to your child’s sleep can be an important step toward helping them cope with hardships from their past. Research shows that children who get the right amount of sleep are sick less frequently, have less trouble with focus and behavior at school, and manage stress more easily.

30 min

before bedtime

All screens should be off and no screens in the bedroom!

25 min

before bedtime

PJ’s on, brush teeth.

20 min

before bedtime

Read books – this is a great opportunity to create those special bonds with your kids.

Bedtime

Hug, kiss, squeeze, lights out!

30 min

before bedtime

All screens should be off and no screens in the bedroom!

25 min

before bedtime

PJ’s on, brush teeth.

20 min

before bedtime

Read books – this is a great opportunity to create those special bonds with your kids.

Bedtime

Hug, kiss, squeeze, lights out!

So how much sleep does your child need? Probably more than you think! Research shows the following recommendations work best for kids:

Infants (4-12 mo)

12-16 hrs/day (including naps)
58%

Toddlers (1-2 yrs)

11-14 hrs/day (including naps)
52%

Preschoolers (3-5 yrs)

10-13 hrs/day (including naps)
47%

Gradeschoolers (6-12 years)

9-12 hrs/day
43%

Teens (13-18 yrs)

8-10 hrs/day
37%

Here are some ideas to help your children get a good night’s sleep:

Routines are your friend

Children thrive with a predictable routine, especially if it involves quality time with their parents or caregivers. Create some rituals for naptime and bedtime that encourage your child to settle more easily into sleep. You may want to read a book together, sing a lullaby, or just talk quietly. Ask her about her day, and maybe share yours as well.

 

Keep bedtimes and wake-up times consistent

Our bodies are healthier and our brains work better when our sleep schedules stay regular and predictable. It also helps the bedtime routine go more smoothly when kids know what to expect. Try to have your child go to bed around the same time each night. A consistent bedtime can also make waking up the next morning much easier.

 

Stay active during the day

Children who get enough exercise also have an easier time going to bed at night. So make a family routine for play and other physical activity, perhaps walking to the park, climbing on monkey bars or playing a favorite sport together.

 

Cut back on television and other screen use

This is especially important in the evenings. A study in Pediatrics found that children ages three to five who watched the most TV at night were especially likely to have sleep problems. Keep TV, phones and other technology out of the sleep space. Research shows that blue light from the screens keeps children from feeling sleepy and relaxed in the evening. Screen use before bed can make it more difficult for them to fall asleep and stay asleep.

 

Replace cartoon violence

The Pediatrics study found that if children they saw “violent” TV shows during the day – even the slapstick antics of SpongeBob Squarepants – they were more likely to have trouble going to sleep. The good news: a follow-up study that encouraged parents of preschoolers to replace cartoon violence with shows like Curious George and Sesame Street found that the changes led to improved sleep.

 

Make the bedtime comfortable and inviting
Create a space that helps children fall asleep. Keep lights dim and noise levels low. The temperature should be cool (high 60s to low 70s) rather than cold or hot. Beds should be for sleeping, not a place for roughhousing or jumping up and down.

 

Give your teen limits on night-time phone use
You may want to say ‘no more phone or computer use after 10 or 11:00 p.m.,’ says teen clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg of Fairfield County, Connecticut, who says she regularly sees clients whose kids are up to midnight or 1 a.m. “Some teens feel obligated to keep texting back their friends until the wee hours of the morning,” she says. “Having a limit may actually come as a relief – they have a good excuse to turn off the phone and go to sleep.”

 

Seek support from a health care provider
If your child experiences sleep problems such as frequent awakenings, frequent nightmares or night terrors, or sleepwalking, talk with your healthcare provider.