Are Your Kids Catching Enough Z’s?

Are Your Kids Catching Enough Z’s?

Sleep is a very important part of a child’s physical and mental development. It affects alertness, memories, moods, behavior, and learning abilities. Establishing good sleep practices will not only aid in proper development, but also provide a much easier daily routine at home.

How much sleep does my child need?

If these numbers sound unattainable to you, then your child probably needs a change in routine. That can mean different things such as, earlier bedtime and changes in habits throughout the day.

Daily Habits to Promote Healthy Sleep

  • Keep a regular daily routine: By keeping the same waking time, meal times, naptime, & playtime, your child will feel more secure and comfortable. It will be easier for the child to anticipate what is coming next and not feel “overwhelmed”. 
  • Monitor screen time: Keep all screens (TV, phone, tablet, etc) out of child’s bedroom as these are distractions, and turn off all screens completely at least 1 hour before bedtime. Screen time too close to bedtime can disrupt healthy sleep. 
  • Encourage daily activity: Offer varied activities throughout the day to keep your child’s mind challenged. Also be sure to encourage plenty of physical activity and fresh air outdoors. 
  • Do not allow your child to be overtired: Do not wait until your child is rubbing his eyes or excessively yawning. Even moving bedtime up by 30 minutes can make a drastic difference in your child’s ability to fall asleep and his mood the next morning. 
  • Create a sleep supportive environment: Dim lights as bedtime is nearing, lower the temperature in the home, turn off all screens, and play soft music or white noise. Put toys away. Limit the bed to one or two security items (a blanket, doll, teddy bear etc) that your child finds comfort in sleeping with. Too many items in the bed become a distraction and may hinder the child’s ability to fall asleep. (*This applies to children as infants should not be placed in bed with anything other than a tightly fitted sheet)
  • Stick to a bedtime routine: Try to keep a consistent routine at bedtime to begin to wind your child down for sleep. For example, after having dinner, begin turning off screens & dimming lights. Then being routine of a warm bath, brushing teeth, reading a book, and then bedtime. 
  • Keep bedtime routine manageable: Bedtime routines can become drawn out which defeats the overall purpose. Children quickly learn that they can “take charge” and delay bedtime by asking for “one more book” or to change the item they want to sleep with repeatedly. They may try to “drag out” a conversation with the parent. Keep control by limiting the choices available. Keep to a fixed number of bedtime stories etc. Try to keep the bedtime routine no longer than 30 minutes. 

By the middle school years, the weekend routine isn’t as strict as weekdays, but it is still important to not allow this routine to stray too far, or the following week’s sleep may suffer. While weekend bedtimes can be later for older children/teens, try to keep weekend wake up times no longer than an hour or so from the usual time. This will prevent the child from shifting sleep phases and having difficulty getting back on his usual schedule when the school week starts back. 

Sleep problems: Be aware that some sleep problems cannot always be remedied with routines at home alone. Other problems include difficulty falling asleep, nighttime awakenings, snoring, sleep apnea, loud or heavy breathing, or night terrors. As always, consult with your pediatrician if your are concerned about your child’s sleep, as he or she may have further recommendations or treatments to offer based on your child’s specific situation. Check out Dr. Craig Canapari, a pediatric sleep specialist for additional information on your sleep related questions.