Throughout their growth and development, kids require varying amounts of sleep in a 24 hour period. As a general rule of thumb, babies need the most sleep (somewhere around 12 to 16 hours per day, including naps), and from there, daily sleep requirements decrease with age. Teens, as you may have guessed, require the least amount of sleep. In this case, 8 to 10 hours is enough.
Surprisingly though, despite established guidelines, a study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2019 found that 52% of school-age children in the United States are not meeting their sleep requirements on weeknights. Even more concerning, that number shoots up to 73% for teenagers.
Time and again studies have also shown that sleep debt affects children both in terms of cognitive functioning and behavioral issues. A lack of sleep in school-aged children can begin with mood swings, irritability, and hyperactivity. Over the long term, it can begin to affect their grades and lead to chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes. In teenagers, long-term sleep debt has even been shown to result in anxiety and depression.
Insufficient sleep carries some weighty consequences, and there’s plenty of cause for concern. To best help your child, it’s important that your first learn to recognize the signs that your kids aren’t getting enough sleep; after that, helping your child with good sleep hygiene (and modeling it yourself) is likely the best way to get things back on course. Ahead, we’ll take a look at 8 ways to help your child get a good night’s sleep.
Lead by example and make sleep a priority
It’s no secret that our kids often do as we do. So, be sure to model healthy behaviors and good sleep hygiene for your kids. If you tend to burn the midnight oil or scroll well past bedtime, your child may learn by example and do the same.
Monitor screen time
Monitoring screen time is important for myriad reasons, but stopping screen time well before bedtime is crucial for your child. For starters, exposure to blue light before bed tricks the body into not producing melatonin — the hormone that regulates the body’s sleep and wake cycle. When this happens, the natural sleep-wake cycle is disrupted, and you can cue a little havoc in your child’s quantity and quality of sleep.
Make sure their day includes plenty of physical activity
A simple fact for all of us is that the more we do during the day, the more tired we are when it’s time to hit the hay. The same goes for your little one. Keep them active, keep them busy, and keep them challenged. When bedtime rolls around, they’ll likely fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow.
While it’s important to ensure that your child gets plenty of exercise, it’s equally important that parents don’t fall into the trap of overscheduling their kids. In the last decade or so, it would seem that more is more when it comes to sports and other extracurriculars, but the truth is a full calendar can lead to more trouble than it’s worth. Overscheduling that leaks into the evening hours can present a direct conflict to getting a good night’s sleep. It’s okay to keep your kids busy, but do your best to avoid overscheduling and give them some equally important downtime.
Maintain a consistent bedtime routine
Study after study has shown that consistent bedtime routines promote longer sleep duration and better quality sleep. To ensure that your child gets enough sleep, create a solid bedtime routine early on and stick to it for as long as your child will allow it.
Keep sleep and wake times consistent
Your child’s sleep and wake times should remain fairly consistent (a 1 – 2 hour deviation should not be an issue) each day. Sleeping in on weekends and holidays may disrupt their body clocks to the point where it becomes an issue.
Create a calm environment that supports sleep
Your child’s sleep environment is an important part of promoting quality sleep night after night. Keep toys off the bed, make sure their lovey is within reach, and be sure your child knows that it’s time to sleep when the lights are dim (or off). If you’re looking for ways to create a soothing, peaceful environment for your child at bedtime, Moshi has an extensive library of melodic bedtime stories, lullabies, and calming guided meditations that can help them drift off into a sound sleep.
Don’t use sleep as a disciplinary tool
Parents are cautioned not to use staying up late as a reward or an early bedtime as a punishment. Moreover, your child’s bedroom should only be used for playtime and sleep — never for timeouts.
A good night’s sleep is an important part of your child’s overall health and wellness. Learning to recognize the signs of insufficient sleep is crucial but knowing how to correct the problem is equally important. Remember that good sleep hygiene will keep things running smoothly and consistency is key.