Good sleep is vital to your child’s growth, development, and overall health. In fact, sleep is probably just as important as good nutrition, and as such, we need to make sure that our children develop good habits when it comes to sleep early in their lives, habits that they will hopefully keep for the rest of their lives.
How much sleep is enough?
Here are the prescribed amounts of time that children should sleep, according to the American Association of Sleep Medicine (AASM). Infants from birth to one year should be getting 12 to 16 hours of sleep per day.
From age one till two, 11 to 14 hours. From ages three to five, 11 to 13 hours. All of these include naps, as children typically stop napping after the age of five.
Elementary school age children (six to thirteen) should get 9 to 11 hours of sleep, and teenagers should be getting 8 to 10 hours of sleep every night. Please note that if your tween or teen regularly naps after school, it’s very likely that he or she isn’t getting enough sleep and needs to go to bed earlier.
Why Is Sleep So Important?
We all know that sleep is essential to health, but here are the benefits of what good sleep does to the minds and bodies of our children:
- Sleep is necessary for muscles to repair themselves (including heart muscles)
- Sleep controls a child’s fullness and hunger, so good sleep keeps from excessive weight gain
- In sleep, your child’s brain processes and saves the memories of what he or she learned that day
- Healthy sleep helps your child focus in school
How to Develop Good Sleep Habits—tips for the whole family
- Make sure your kids stay active. Kids who get enough exercise, especially outdoors, generally sleep well.
- Be good examples. Children catch their parents’ good habits, and when they see their parents making healthy sleep a priority, they will adopt this as well.
- Establish a routine from the beginning. Starting from when they are very young, establish a good bedtime schedule at the same time every night, this helps children get into a good groove for getting healthy sleep. Have quiet and relaxing activities at night, too—such as a warm bath, reading, etc.
- Make sure your child is not overextended with too many activities that cause them to be busy till late at night. If they have too many after-school activities, get home late and then have to do homework on top of that, this will push their bedtime further and further back.
- Limit screen time. Experts recommend that all screen time stops half an hour before bedtime (TV, phones, computers, etc.), and this is where parents need to get a little strict in enforcing boundaries.
- De-clutter your child’s bedroom. Remove other toys, sports equipment, books, or gadgets that may keep him or her awake. The primary activity in your child’s bedrooms should be sleep and nothing more.
- Eat dinner at a reasonable hour. If your child is too full or too hungry at bedtime, this may cause problems with falling asleep.
If your child can fall asleep within half an hour of getting to bed, and if he or she does not need to be called to get up repeatedly the next morning, or doesn’t nod off in school or need naps after school—these are signs that your child is getting enough healthy sleep.