Sleep is an important part of health, especially for children. Good quality sleep restores their energy, and helps with normal growth and development.
But as many parents and grandparents know, getting a child to sleep can be a battle.
How much sleep do kids need?
A child’s sleep needs change as they get older. Current guidelines recommend the following:
- Newborns (0-3 months) – 14-17 hours
- Infants (4-11 months) – 12-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-2 years) – 11-14 hours
- Preschoolers (3-5 years) – 10-13 hours
- School-aged children (6-13 years) – 9-11 hours
- Teenagers (14-17 years) – 8-10 hours
It’s important to remember that these guidelines only. Your child or grandchild’s sleep needs may vary. Making sure they are well rested is more important than reaching a set number of sleep hours. Your paediatrician can help determine if your child is getting enough sleep.
Tips for helping kids get to bed
A good night’s sleep doesn’t always come easy. Teaching your child or grandchild good sleep hygiene will help them manage their bedtime now and into adulthood.
- Start a bedtime routine. Creating a calm, quiet bedtime routine can help your child settle into sleep easier. A nightly warm bath, reading together, or listening to quiet music can help soothe your bub before bedtime. By repeating the same routine every night, their bodies will naturally start to associate these actions with sleep.
- Keep a regular bedtime, even on weekends. Setting a bedtime is a big part of a child’s sleep routine. However, letting your kids stay up late on weekends can undo all the hard work you’ve put in over the week. Going to bed at the same time every night helps keep the body’s internal clock on schedule, and will help your child fall asleep and wake up more easily.
- Turn off electronics. Our bodies are attuned to natural sleep cues, such as the sun setting and temperatures cooling at night. But modern life can interfere with these signals. Screens—television, computers, tablets and smartphones—emit blue light, which can make it harder to fall asleep. Turn off all devices at least one hour before bedtime, and keep these electronics out of kids’ bedrooms. Modeling this behaviour yourself can help teenagers follow suit.
- Be careful what they eat. Eating a large, heavy meal immediately before bed is not recommended. Digestion can disrupt sleep, so little ones should be fed at least 1-2 hours before bedtime. Caffeine is also a big no-no in the evening. Soda and energy drinks are well-known sources of caffeine, but chocolate also contains this stimulant.
- Limit naps after 4pm. Except for newborns and infants, avoiding naps after 4pm for children could be a good idea. Sleeping so close to bedtime can disrupt their routine, and could make it harder for them to get to sleep at night.
Setting a routine and making changes whilst they’re young helps kids learn good sleep habits for life. It may not always be easy, but with a few simple steps, your children could be on the road to a good night’s sleep.
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