As a parent, you know the importance of making sure your child gets enough sleep. But sometimes, like adults, children have trouble falling or staying asleep. Here are some tips for helping make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep.
How Much Sleep Is Best?
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First, figure out how much sleep your child needs. Infants in the first few months of life need 10.5–18 hours of sleep, while a teenager only needs 8–10 hours of sleep. Toddlers up to five years old benefit from a daily nap for one or two hours. Longer naps tend to interfere with nighttime sleep. If your child wakes naturally in the morning and has few yawns or sleepy moments during the day, the sleep schedule is probably adequate. If children are unusually irritable or have trouble staying awake during the day, increase their nightly sleep.
Limit Artificial Light
Circadian rhythms regulate our body’s natural schedules, causing us to wake in the mornings and tire as night approaches. Unfortunately, artificial lights alter that rhythm causing confusion with our internal clocks. Excessively bright lights in a room, televisions, and especially computer screens produce such intense light that the body wants to wake up.
Dimming room lights and limiting television and computer time helps the body to realize night is approaching. Make sure children do a quiet activity in a room with slightly dimmed lights for at least an hour before bedtime. Make reading, coloring, or quiet play part of the bedtime routine, so the body naturally begins to wind down and ups melatonin production, a natural hormone that stimulates sleep.
Comfort is necessary for a child to fall asleep. That includes the air temperature in the room. In the summertime, cooling the room at night helps children fall asleep and stay asleep. Keep your house slightly cooler at night to promote a good night’s sleep for the entire family. If your children still seem too warm to sleep, add a ceiling fan. The fan creates a wind chill effect without lowering the actual temperature, and the sound of a fan produces white noise helping encourage sleep too.
The body must be sleepy when nighttime comes or dim lights and ceiling fans won’t help. Make sure your child gets at least 60 minutes of physical movement daily. Sitting in front of video games all day won’t help your child to sleep. Encourage exercise like running around the yard, playing sports, taking the dog for a walk, or playtime at the park.
Keep caffeine away from children, even early in the day. Children react to caffeine like adults — it stimulants them. Strictly limit the intake of sodas, energy drinks, and coffee beverages, not just before bedtime, but all day. Don’t let children eat spicy foods or sugary items right before bed either.
Stress the importance of a good night’s sleep to your child. Plus, well-rested students pay more attention and receive better grades in school and sleep is an important part of healthy growth and brain development. So, create a nightly routine so children sleep well and wake-up rested in the morning.