One of the most important responsibilities of a parent, and one of the most difficult, is making sure children are getting enough sleep. The amount of sleep kids get is directly related to to mood and decision-making. No matter the age, a good night's sleep sets the stage for academic success and overall well-being.
During the summer months, many children have later bedtimes and wake-times than they do during the school year. Sleep experts warn parents not to wait until the night before the first day of school to start putting their kids to bed earlier.
The fact is, it takes about two weeks for the body to adjust to a new sleeping routine, so now is the time to gradually adjust bedtimes (if like most districts, the first day of school is the day after Labor Day). Start by putting your kids to bed five to 15 minutes earlier each night.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that getting enough sleep leads to:
Getting Enough Sleep Leads to Improved:
- 1. Attention
- 2. Memory
- 3. Concentration
- 4. Problem-Solving
- 5. Physical Health
Lack of Sleep associated with Increased:
- 1. Injuries
- 2. High Blood Pressure
- 3. Obesity
- 4. Depression
Teenagers Who Don't Get Enough Sleep More Likely to:
- 1. Abuse Drugs and Alcohol
- 2. Be Involved in a Car Crash
- 3. Experience Suicidal Thoughts
- 4. Harm Themselves
The AAP says kids needs different amounts of sleep, depending on their age, and issued the following guidelines for school children:
How Much Sleep Does Your Child Need?
- 3-5 years old: 10 to 13 hours (including naps)
- 6-12 years old: 9 to 12 hours
- 13-18 years old: 8 to 10 hours
Health experts say even 30 minutes less sleep than what's recommend can make a big difference. They suggest the following methods to help your child get enough sleep.
1. Just Say "No": Overscheduling children means they simply have too much to do before bedtime. Therefore, experts recommend limiting the amount of nighttime activities whenever possible.
2. No Electronics 1 Hour Before Bedtime: Electronic screens emit a blue light that promotes wakefulness. Enforce a media blackout at least one hour before bedtime to give the body a chance to power-down as well. Dim the lights as much as possible one hour before bedtime, and try to allow your child to sleep in as dark of an environment as possible. Make sure electronics are silenced throughout the night so they don't disrupt sleep.
3. Stick to a Calming Bedtime Routine: A soothing, regular nighttime pattern will cue your child's brain that it's time to go to sleep. Reading a pleasant book, taking a bath and praying together are all good ideas. Avoid angry and stressful conversations both with your child and ones that he or she might overhear.
4. Quiet: When children go to sleep, the other members of the household who are still awake should try to keep the noise levels low. Fans or white noise machines in the child's bedroom can help muffle the sounds in the rest of the house.
5. Cool: Cooler temperatures, between 68 and 72 degrees, promote better sleep.
6. Limit Caffeine: Try not to allow your child to have any caffeine, which is a stimulant. At the very least, make sure kids avoid it after lunch and at the very least, none within three hours of bedtime. Sugar can also interfere with a child's sleep.