A healthy sleep routine promotes healthy behavior, including improved focus, attention, learning, and memory.
Getting enough sleep is also associated with good physical and mental health. When our kids get enough sleep, they are rested, happy, and energized for the day.
However, there are repercussions of not getting enough sleep.
Not sleeping or getting enough rest each night can lead to high blood pressure, obesity, and even depression explains Rachel Dawkins, M.D.
Many kids have trouble falling asleep, and some struggle to stay asleep.
In some cases, kids, especially young children, are so overly attached to their mothers that they can’t separate, even to sleep. But helping your children sleep through the night and get quality sleep is an essential part of parenting. So, what exactly is the right amount of sleep? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
- Infants under one year: 12-16 hours
- Children 1-2 years old: 11-14 hours
- Children 3-5 years old: 10-13 hours
- Children 6-12 years old: 9-12 hours
- Teenagers 13-18 years old: 8-10 hours
Here are some tips to help you establish healthy sleep habits right from the start.
Establish a Routine
You want bedtime to be predictable. As parents, you should establish a routine that works for you and stick to it each night. That means sticking to your routine (bath before bed, quiet time to read after dinner, one bedtime story then lights out, etc.) so that your children know what to expect and when to prepare for bedtime.
Wind Down as a Family
Keep pre-bedtime activities calm and relaxing. You want your child to naturally wind down as you prepare for sleep, so they are not hyper or wound up. Physical activity and fresh air are essential during the day but stick to calming activities two hours before bed. Think puzzles, reading books, listening to relaxing music, etc.
Limit Screen Time Before Bed
The light from tablets has been shown to stimulate the brain, which promotes awareness and makes kids feel alert rather than sleepy. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends turning off all screens at least one hour before bedtime. It’s important to set boundaries around screen time and stick to them.
Set Boundaries About Bedtime (and Beds)
Your child should sleep in their own bed, not your bed. According to Ken Schuster, PsyD, if your child gets into the habit of waking up at night and crawling into your bed for comfort, you should walk them back to their bed as soon as possible. Kids need to learn they can sleep on their own and not feel rewarded by conversation or extra snuggle time if they wake up in the middle of the night.
Wake-Up Times Matter Too
If you let your kids sleep too late in the mornings, it can be harder to wind down naturally and drift off to sleep at bedtime. Set a consistent wake-up time, so they log in their hours’ slumber when you want them to rest (all night long) and not during the day.
Keep Calm and Be Patient
If your child is having a hard time sleeping, remember that developing healthy sleep habits takes time, and while it can be challenging and exhausting when you’re in the thick of it, your efforts will pay off in the long run. And if you’re really struggling, talk to your pediatrician or meet with a sleep specialist.