By Dr. Guanghai Wang, Clinical Psychologist and Sleep Specialist, with Ronni Rowland, Writer
Sleep is essential for maintaining health. It’s a time for physical and mental restoration. Lack of sleep in children and adolescents is widely shown to negatively impact their health.
“Insufficient sleep in children of all ages is linked to mental and physical impairments as well as declines in academic performance,” says Dr. Guanghai Wang, Clinical Psychologist and Sleep Specialist with the Essential Learning Group (ELG). “Negative consequences include poorer overall health, mood, behavior, and cognitive functioning.”
Regardless of age, children will benefit from your support in creating good sleep habits now for a healthy future. Here are three tips to get your children to sleep.
1. Establish a regular schedule for sleep.
For babies and toddlers, establish a predictable nap schedule during the day. And for all children, set a regular bedtime.
“The absence of clear restrictions on a child’s bedtime behavior by the parent or caregiver can manifest as efforts to delay bedtime or an all-out refusal to go to bed,” says Dr. Wang. “Once the child finally falls asleep, sleep quality is generally normal, but the overall sleep time will be reduced by 30-60 minutes, which makes a significant difference.”
Even though adolescents are more independent, parents can still play an important role in encouraging a reasonable bedtime. Teach time management skills or limit activities if your teen is overscheduled.
2. Create a calm bedtime routine.
Before going to bed, have your child quietly engage in a fixed sequence of activities. For example, a calm bedtime routine may include: take a warm bath, brush teeth, prepare the bed for sleeping, and choose a book for story time. Establishing these types of habits will help prevent arguments at bedtime and set the foundation for ongoing healthy sleep habits.
Create a calm environment for sleep by dimming lights and eliminating loud noises and unhealthy snacks. Rather than letting the child fall asleep “anywhere,” help your child connect sleep with her bed. This will reinforce your routine and allow for uninterrupted sleep.
3. Promote healthy eating and exercise.
Children who get plenty of physical exercise during the day sleep better at night. So support an active lifestyle through sports, trips to the park, and games that don’t involve a screen! Studies also show that eating healthy during the day – and avoiding treats with sugar or caffeine before bed – also promotes good quality sleep.
The following chart shows the amount of sleep recommended for individuals of all ages. Try Dr. Wang’s recommended tips so you and your family can tuck in and sleep soundly for optimal health.
|Infants/Babies*||0-3 months: 14-17 hours
4-11 months: 12-15 hours
|Toddlers/Children*||1-2 years: 11-14 hours
3-5 years: 10-13 hours
6-13 years: 9-11 hours
|Adolescents||14-17 years: 8-10 hours|
|Adults/Older Adults||On average: 7-9 hours|
|*Total time includes naps.|
From the U.S. National Sleep Foundation