You know how it feels to go through the day grumpy or with low energy because you didn’t get enough sleep. Kids and their young bodies react differently to lack of sleep or poor sleep, sometimes becoming hyper, disagreeable or other extremes in behavior.
“Kids need plenty of sleep to rest their growing bodies and minds,” says Dr. Melissa King, DO, general pediatrician at the Children’s Health Clinic and Dr. Mom Squad blogger at Dayton Children’s. “When kids don’t get enough they can be at increased risk for obesity, poor school performance, behavioral problems and substance abuse.”
Sleep is very important to your child’s well-being. However, for many kids, bedtime is no fun, and for many parents, getting kids to go to bed – and stay there – can be utterly frustrating. Here are some tips for making bedtime more enjoyable.
- Stick to a schedule: A child’s bedtime and wake-up time should be about the same time every day (even on weekends).
- Routine is king: A 20-30 minute bedtime routine should occur in the bedroom, such as reading a book or talking about the day.
- Cool and comfy: The bedroom should be quiet, dark and at a comfortable temperature (less than 75oF).
- Snack before snoozing: A light snack before bed is a good idea.
- Say no to caffeine: Avoid caffeine six hours before bedtime.
- Flip the switch on the screen: Keep televisions, computers and video games out of the bedroom; increased light exposure can effect sleep/wake cycles.
- Naps are nice: Naps should be geared toward the age of the child (avoid very long, too many or late naps in the day).
- Ending the day: Avoid high-energy activities an hour before bed, including rough play or video games.
- Get a dose of exercise: Children should get daily exercise.
“Praise your child for sleeping following a good bedtime routine and staying in bed when he or she wakes up!” says Dr. King. “As a mother of a two-year-old and four-year-old I know how much they love to get positive reinforcement for their actions!”
How much sleep do kids need?
“Most kids' sleep requirements fall within a predictable range of hours based on their age, but each child is a unique individual with distinct sleep needs,” says Dr. King.
Here are some approximate numbers based on age, accompanied by age-appropriate tactics.
- Newborns 1-4 weeks old: 15 - 16 hours per day. Little ones this age tend to sleep the day away!
- 1-4 months old: 14 - 15 hours per day. At this age, day-to-night confusion usually ends.
- 4-12 months old: 14 - 15 hours per day. Most kids this age will take two naps a day.
- 1-3 years old: 12 - 14 hours per day. By this age, most children have moved to one afternoon nap.
- 3-6 years old: 10 - 12 hours per day. At age 3, most kids are still napping. By age 5 most are done napping.
- 7-12 years old: 10 - 11 hours per day.
- 12-18 years old: 8 - 9 hours per day. Sleep needs are just as vital to the health and well-being of teenagers as when they were younger.
“Just as it’s important to help kids develop habits such as eating healthy and exercising daily, developing good sleep routines will help them get the necessary sleep they need for life,” says Dr. King.
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