It’s hard to be a parent. There are times when you feel like you never get anything done and your kids are always cranky, refusing to play with toys, or not getting enough sleep. Is it possible that they’re just tired?
It turns out that sleep has a big impact on how children grow and what mood they’re in. This is because sleep helps with their developing brains and bodies while also keeping the immune system strong.
This article will give you the facts behind kids’ sleeping patterns and help you understand why certain behaviors may be related to a lack of restful sleep. It also offers tips on what you can do to help your children get more restful hours in their day.
Why kids need sleep
Sleep is vital for children and may affect their ability to learn, behave, communicate, and even their health. Growth hormones that are essential for normal development are released during sleep. And, a lack of restful sleep can affect temperament and behavior.
How much sleep do kids need?
Sleep requirements vary depending on age and developmental stage as well as daily activity level. Studies indicate that the average amount of sleep for preschool-aged children (ages 3 and 4) is 10–11 hours. For school age kids (ages 7–13), a good rule of thumb is to divide their age by 2 and add 20 minutes. For example, if a child is 7 years old, she should be getting at least 9 hours of sleep, and an older child should be getting at least 10 hours of sleep.
Some children need even more or less than this amount to flourish. But ask your pediatrician or pharmacist for advice before giving your child extra time in bed because there are some things you can do to help your child get better restful sleep.
How can you get your kids to sleep better at night?
Some kids just need more sleep than others. Here are 5 tips you can follown on how you can help your child get better restful sleep.
1. Establish a regular sleep schedule
Children are more likely to sleep well if they can clock in and out at the same time each day. Because young children have irregular schedules, it may be best to start your routine on nights with early bedtimes (such as school nights). Then gradually shift bedtime earlier during the weekdays by 15 or 30 minutes until you reach your target time. Be sure to extend weekend wake times to match weekday wake-up times. Remember, allow one day of adjustment for each hour of change so any changes should be made slowly.
2. Limit nighttime TV and screen time
A large body of research shows that children who watch a lot of television and computer time in the evening are at a greater risk for sleep problems. Before bed, have your child turn off all screens (TV, computers, tablets, cell phones) to allow them to wind down and prepare for sleep. Although some screen time is essential later in life (like homework), too much screen time at this age may set kids up for some ill-effects later on.
3. Separate day and night activities
Limit the activities that take place in the evening, such as homework and screen time. If you can’t do this then it may be best to create programs like Take Ten at bedtime so you can still reward nighttime behaviors without adding a second sitter.
4. Keep it dark
Darkness triggers the body’s natural production of melatonin – a hormone that helps regulate sleep, make hunger signals to the brain, and help protect against cancer. Keeping your home well-lit during the day may disrupt your child’s natural rhythms (especially if they are sensitive to artificial lights) and keep them from getting enough restful sleep at night.
5. Consider the clock
Your child’s bedtime will usually be earlier than your own. Be sure that they know when it is time to get ready for bed so they don’t stay up past their regular bedtime trying to check their email or listen to the latest chapter of a book.