Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep? If Not, Here Are A Few Ways To Help Them Get To Dreamland Faster

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Note: We want to thank Dr. Dana Nezon, Pediatrician at Windrose Health Network, for contributing the information to this article.

Do you know that people spend approximately one third of their lives either sleeping or attempting to sleep? Children who get a good night’s sleep have been shown to have better school performance, improved memory, less behavioral problems, improved mental health and a healthier immune system leading to less frequent illness. On the other hand, regular sleep deprivation can lead to irritability, difficulty concentrating, high blood pressure, obesity, headaches and depression.

How much sleep do children actually need? The answer is likely more than what your child is getting, as many children are chronically sleep deprived. In a 24-hour period, the recommended hours of sleep vary by age:  infants 4-12 months need 12-16 hours (including naps), toddlers aged 1-2 years 11-14 hours (including naps), preschools 3-5 years 10-13 hours (including naps), grade schoolers 6-12 years 9-12 hours and teenagers 13-18 years old 8-10 hours.

So how can you help your child get a good night’s sleep? It is as easy as taking some basic steps, starting with making sleep a priority for everyone in the household. Keep a regular schedule both on weekdays and weekends with similar waking times, meal times, regular daily exercise and bed times. Set up a consistent bedtime routine for your child.  In younger kids, brushing teeth, reading a book together and tucking them into their bed is a good way to start. Older children and teenagers may want to include a relaxing shower/ bath, listening to music and/or adding mindfulness exercises into their bedtime routines.  Bright lights from computers, tablets and cell phones can all interfere with falling asleep. It is best for screens not to be allowed in your child’s bedroom. To minimize sleep disturbances, be sure turn off all screens at least one hour prior to bedtime. Additionally, in teenagers, be sure to limit caffeinated beverages (soda, tea, coffee, energy drinks) and avoid them all together in the afternoon and evenings. Finally, create a bedroom environment that is sleep supportive. Dim lights prior to bedtime and try to minimize noise. Keep your child’s bedroom as a place to sleep rather then a place to play or do homework. One or two toys in bed are fine but avoid filling your child’s bed with multiple toys, which can be a distraction to sleep.

Some common sleep problems that children experience including difficulty falling asleep, chronic snoring, loud/ heavy breathing at night, recurrent nighttime awakenings, frequent nightmares or night terrors, sleep walking, teeth grinding and bed wetting. If your child is experiencing these sleep problems or more, be sure to discuss it with your child’s doctor.

For more helpful advice on sleep and other topics, head to www.healthychildren.org or www.kidshealth.org.  These are great resources for families with material vetted by pediatricians.

Windrose Health Network is a full service medical center. In pediatrics, we provide well-child care, developmental assessments, behavioral care and lifestyle coaching. If your child is having sleep concerns or your family is in need of a pediatrician or family doctor, let Windrose Health Network become your families’ health care home.

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