We all heard sometime that adults need 8 hours of sleep in order to function normally, but do we know how much sleep do our kids need? Well, it depends on age, but the fact is that babies, toddlers, school kids and teenagers need significantly more sleep than adults, and missing out as much as 30 or 60 minutes of sleep time can have a serious impact. One of the reasons it’s so hard to know when our kids are getting insufficient sleep is that dozy children don’t necessarily slow down the way adults do. In fact, kids often act as if they’re not tired at all, resisting bedtime and becoming hyperactive, as the time goes on. All this can happen because they are exhausted. Here are some tips to help your kids develop healthy sleep habits and gather all the energy they need.
Know How Much Sleep Your Children Need
If you have more than one child, don’t push them to go to sleep and get up at the same time. Every child is unique, and while one is an early riser, the second might be a night owl. You should set an individualized bedtime that will support their natural patterns. When thinking about that, have in mind the recommended sleep time (including naps) for different ages:
- Newborns (0 – 2 months): 10.5 – 18 hours
- Infants (2 – 12 months): 14 – 15 hours
- Toddlers (1 – 3 years): 12 – 14 hours
- Preschoolers (3 – 5 years): 11 – 13 hours
- School-age kids (5 – 12 years): 10 – 11 hours
- Teens (13 – 19): 9 – 9 ½ hours
Wake Them Up
If you know how much sleep they need and when they usually go to bed, then wakeup time is a matter of simple math. This means that they should wake up every day at approximately the same time, even if it is a weekend or holiday. Allowing them to sleep in during those special days might be generous of you, but it can have consequences for their normal sleeping routine, and make it hard for them to feel tired at bedtime.
Have a Bedtime Routine
Bedtime routines are important for adults – for kids, especially toddlers and preschoolers, they can be essential. Doing a specific thing before going to bed, such as singing a song, having a bubble bath and reading a story, can signal your kids that it is almost bedtime and create an atmosphere where their body will automatically feel tired.
Turn Off the Digital Distractions
If your idea of a bedtime routine is watching Cartoon Network, you should think again. Screen time (watching TV, playing video games, using the computer/tablet/smartphone), just before bedtime can delay children’s sleep time, thus adding to sleep deficit. To prevent that, turn off all digital distractions two hours prior to going to bed.
Create a Sleep-Inducing Environment
Where the kids sleep matters just as much as how and when. Their room should be warm, yet not too warm (21 – 24 degrees Celsius). It shouldn’t have a television set (if you can avoid including a computer, even better). The bed must be comfortable – with a quality supportive mattress that is appropriate for their height (e.g. when the kids pass the school-age they may need to move to super single mattress if they’ve outgrown their standard single). The air in the bedroom should be clean and fresh, so make shure to aerate the room regularly. If your kid is prone to alergies, do a research and choose best air purifiers for alergies online. Also, they should be surrounded with things that evoke positive feelings (a comfy blanket, their favourite stuffed animal and other security objects).
Address Bedtime Fears
“Don’t leave! I’m too scared! Leave the light on, please”. How many times have you heard this when putting your kids to bed? Don’t worry, it is normal for children to have difficulties going to bed due to night time fears. To overcome them, they need your support. First, you need to listen without judging or making fun of their fear. Reassure them, they’re safe in their room. Try to teach them how to cope and be brave (many kids’ books can help with that), and tell them how proud you are of their bravery.
Don’t Make It All about Sleep
Have you noticed that when you try to force yourself to sleep by thinking you have to get your 8 hours that is even more difficult to shut your brain off? Well, it is the same with kids. Insisting on bedtime can be counterproductive causing anxiety and stress. Instead, focus on relaxation and calming them down.
If, despite all your efforts, your kids still have troubles falling asleep or have interrupted sleeping patterns, you should consult their paediatrician.