If you live in a state that abides by daylight savings time, you know how difficult a time change can be. Time changes are hard enough on adults, but especially hard for children and teens. With a recent “spring forward” time change, perhaps you noticed your child struggle or maybe you often have wondered if your child is getting enough sleep in general. It’s important to encourage and establish healthy sleep habits from an early age to prevent children’s long-term sleep problems and other associated risk factors in children.
According to healthychildren.org, while it’s true that sleep needs vary from one person to another, there are very reasonable, science-based guidelines to help you determine whether your child is getting the sleep he or she needs to function appropriately. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement of endorsement for the following recommended sleep hours:
- Infants 4 to 12 months: 12-16 hours (including naps)
- Toddlers 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours (including naps)
- Preschoolers 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours (including naps)
- Gradeschoolers 6 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours
- Teens 13 to 18 years: 8 to 10 hours
Are you surprised by the recommended sleep hours?
If the above numbers are surprising to you, you’re not alone. Many parents skate by on five or six hours of sleep per night and may not realize the direct impact of their social and mental functioning, as well as their increased risk for health problems. It can be tempting to think that your children, especially older kids, can skate by on less sleep than they need, or that they should be able to cope with a few skipped hours here and there. The truth is, all children thrive on a regular and consistent bedtime routine.
Regular sleep deprivation leads to difficult behaviors and health issues
WebMD states sleep is no less important than food, drink or safety in the lives of children. Although this may seem apparent, many parents actually do not allow their children to get the critical sleep they need to develop and function properly. This obviously is not something that parents do on purpose and often, they don’t think much of it. With parents working long hours, packed school schedules and other lifestyle factors, you can see how sleep isn’t always at the forefront of hard working, exhausted parents. Sleep deprivation can lead to:
- Difficulty concentrating
Your child’s brain needs sleep to restore resources that were used during the day. A well-rested brain can solve problems, learn new information and enjoy the day a lot more than a tired brain. Some areas of your child’s brain are even more active when they sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Healthy routines for maintaining a consistent sleep schedule
At SAFY, we know there will be days when a normal sleep schedule isn’t possible, as life happens, but there are certainly tips that can be implemented to help your child fall asleep, stay asleep and establish overall good sleeping habits. Here are four tips for consideration:
- Maintain a consistent schedule
Your child’s bedtime and wake up time should be about the same every day of the week. It’s encouraged that parents allow adequate sleep pressure to build up by a late evening to allow for quicker sleep onset at an appropriate time of night, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Exercise can give a boost to sleep in several ways for children and contributes to more sound and restful sleep. In addition to improving the quality of sleep, exercise can also help reduce stress or anxiety that teens, specifically, may have.
- Avoid caffeinated products
Your child should avoid products that contain caffeine in the late afternoon and early evening. 75% of kids consume caffeine every day and the more caffeinated products they intake, the fewer hours they will sleep.
- Limit electronic stimulants
The AAP recommends keeping all screens—TVs, computers, tablets, phones, etc., out of children’s bedrooms, especially at night. To prevent sleep disruption, turn off all screens at least 60 minutes before bedtime. This may be a hard guideline to establish with teens, but it’s important to help older kids realize that device usage before bed can greatly impact quality of sleep and mental health.
The American Psychological Association states that 69% of children experience one or more sleep problems a few nights or more during a week. At SAFY, we put children and families first. Part of our Mission is to help biological and foster parents establish healthy routines in all areas of life that have an effect on a child’s mental health. Sleep is definitely one of the areas that we know to be linked to happy, healthy kids!