Lack of sleep can leave adults and children feeling groggy, unfocused, and inattentive. As adults, we may struggle through the day when we don't get our required eight hours, but what happens to children when they don't get enough sleep? According to an article by Johns Hopkins Children's Hospital, getting the proper amount of sleep gives children the ability to focus more, improve their memory, and enhance physical and mental health.
How much sleep should children get?
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the proper amounts of sleep vary according to the age of the child. They are:
- Newborns: ages 0-3 months = 14-17 hours (including naps)
- Infants: ages 4-12 months = 12-15 hours (including naps)
- Toddlers: ages 1-2 years = 11-14 hours (including naps)
- Preschoolers: ages 3-5 years = 10-13 hours (including naps)
- School-aged children: ages 6-13 years = 9-11 hours
Healthline suggests that children who don’t get enough sleep are more susceptible to physical and mental health issues such as:
- Type II Diabetes
- Childhood obesity
- Mood swings, depression, and other mental health issues
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other disorders that affect attention and behavior
The CDC also provides suggestions on what parents can do to help their children get a good night's sleep if they are struggling with bedtime:
- Once your child moves past the newborn and infant stage where they need to be up for feedings every few hours, a standard bedtime and wake up time every day will get their bodies used to the routine and make it easier to follow in the future. A sleep schedule should not be changed on weekends or holidays because it is difficult to get back on track, and you run the risk of disrupting the sleep schedule permanently. This may not always be possible since there are factors such as dinner with grandparents, outings that could get you home late, etc. that could interfere with weekend bedtimes.
- Make sure there are no distractions in the bedroom, and that it is a comfortable temperature. Melatonin levels that are released in the brain work most effectively when the bedroom is quiet and dark. If your child needs a nightlight, make sure it is not shining directly at their face as this can interfere with melatonin levels.
- Have your child stop using electronics at least 1-2 hours before going to bed. The blue light that emits from electronic devices prevents the release of melatonin in the brain and your child will need some time to settle down after the computers, tablets, and video games are turned off.
- Avoid giving your child a large meal close to bedtime or drinks with sugar and caffeine in them. This type of stimulation will stop your child from settling down and may keep them up for hours after their bedtime. If your child is hungry before bed and must have a snack, stick with lighter fare like a banana or nuts.
- Keep kids active during the day so their excess energy is spent by the time bedtime rolls around. A healthy activity level will calm their minds and bodies and let them sleep until morning. But, don’t go overboard. Packing your child’s day with constant activity can have adverse effects and overstimulate them so they can’t fall asleep.
- Set a good example for your kids with your own sleeping behaviors. If your child sees you playing on your phone in bed they will emulate your behavior and think it is okay.
Getting enough sleep will get your child on the right path to physical and mental health, increased memory and attention span, and better judgment and clarity. Starting these behaviors from toddlerhood can be challenging, but the earlier they learn healthy sleep routines the better. You can feel good knowing you have set a foundation for healthy sleeping patterns that will last them the rest of their lives.
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