As important as sleep is for adults, it is even more critical for children. Studies show that more than 2 out of 3 children have sleep problems and only 15% of teenagers are obtaining the advised amount of sleep. Emphasizing the importance of sleep and good sleep habits to a child helps establish an important foundation for the child to carry through into their adult life. There is an extraordinary amount of physical and mental development that occurs in children, much of which occurs during sleep. Therefore, poor sleep can have a tremendously negative impact on their brain and overall development.
While sleep needs vary across age and individual children, there are several techniques and strategies that generally apply across the board. If you suspect your child has a sleep disorder or has a particularly unique set of circumstances that make it difficult for the child to get the appropriate amount of sleep it is imperative that you get involved early on and it is advised that you discuss the sleep issues with their doctor.
Children and Sleeping Needs
For the first three months, newborns will generally need 14-17 hours of sleep. The sleep will not happen all at once, but rather the sleep occurs in several periods throughout the day and night. At this age, Pediatricians generally recommend that the newborn sleep on their back to reduce the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Minimizing loose bedding, pillows, and blankets in the crib is also usually recommended. For the rest of the first year the child needs approximately 12-15 hours of sleep. Again, the child should sleep on their back and the sleep will occur through the day and night during several different sleep periods.
Toddlers, aged 1-2 should get approximately 11-14 hours of sleep and it is expected that the child will take 1-2 naps during the day. Preschool aged children between 3-5 benefit from 10-13 hours of sleep and the need for naps will gradually decrease. The sleep requirement for school age children aged 6-13 is generally 9-11 hours. When older school age children are still requiring naps it may suggest the child is not obtaining sufficient sleep during the night.
While a nap is a good way to provide additional sleep, it is important that the nighttime sleep period be adequate. The recommended range for teenagers 14-17 is approximately 8-10 hours. From age 18 through adulthood the sleep requirement is relatively stable at 7-9 hours.
Sleep Routine for Children
It is critical for children to develop a good sleep routine. One that promotes good sleep habits and also helps the child associate the activities with bedtime. It is important that this routine be consistent so it clearly signals to the child that bedtime is approaching. The result will be the creation and reinforcement of strong sleep associations with the bed and bedroom.
In the hour or so leading up to bedtime children should partake in a relaxing activity to help them calm down and prepare for sleep. Ideal relaxing activities include reading, being read to, listening to relaxing music, or a warm shower or bath. It is also important that a child’s bedroom is a good sleep environment. This means a cool, dark, and quiet room, free of TVs, noise and electronics.
Infants should be placed into bed when they are drowsy not when that are already asleep. This will teach them how to fall asleep in their bed and begin associating their bed with falling asleep.
Children benefit from learning how to be independent when it comes to sleep and not dependent on their parents being in the room or bed with them. Something like a special blanket or stuffed animal that a child sleeps with may prove to be an ideal substitute for the parents.
Article written by Optisom