Sleep Tips for Parents: Common Sleep Problems in Kids & How to Help Children Get a Better Night's Sleep by All Things For Kids
Establishing healthy sleep habits in kids is crucial for their growth and development. But, honestly, Mom and Dad, how much do you really know about sleep and children?
Research has found that children thrive when they have a regular bedtime routine. A healthier immune system, doing better at school, improved behavior and better memory skills are just a few of the benefits kids may reap from getting a good night's sleep. When we sleep, our bodies absorb new information and reinforce long-term memories. Improved mental health is not the only benefit – while we sleep our bodies repair muscles, tissues and organs, and our brains help kick disease-causing toxins to the curb.
Lack of sleep for extended periods can have the opposite effect as a good night of sleep. Not getting enough sleep can cause everything from hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity, depression and irritability. Missing just one hour of sleep may affect your kid's behavior and mood. Yes, just one hour! Instead of slowing down like many adults do who are tired, kids tend to become hyperactive. It's important for parents to know what to look for and how to identify when a child is overtired and what may be causing the missing hours of sleep.
6 Common Sleep Problems
Suspect your kid isn't getting enough sleep each night? Some of the most common sleep problems that kids face include:
- trouble falling asleep
- waking up during the night
- fighting bedtime
- obstructive sleep apnea
- heavy breathing while sleeping
Helping Kids Get More Sleep
Parents, there are ways you can help create the right environment to support good sleep in your children. Here are five sleep tips to try:
- Get Active: Kids need activity and to be moving. Spend time outside in the fresh air every day and make sure kids get enough physical exercise.
- Schedule Sleep: Kids thrive on regular routines and schedules. Be mindful about your kid's wake-up time, naptime and bedtime, and try to make them all at the same time each day.
- Bedtime Routines: Create a bedtime routine for your kids that they look forward to. For example, brush teeth, wash hands, get into pajamas, read a bedtime story and then lights out. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has Brush, Book, Bed, a program for kids ages 6 months to 6 years, to help parents.
- Sleep Environment: The right sleep environment is crucial for a good night's sleep. Consider keeping just one or two toys in your child's bed, installing a dimmer for the lights and keeping the bedroom at a comfortable temperature for sleep. Comfortable pajamas can help, too.
- Be a Good Role Model: Kids watch what their parents do, so don't let your kids see you pulling all-nighters and not respecting your need for sleep. Make your sleep a priority so kids follow your lead.
Some sleep problems are more specific to the child's age group:
- For babies younger than 6 months, avoid feeding them solids. Many feel this may help babies sleep through the night, but the opposite may actually be true. Digestive problems and an upset tummy could reduce your baby's quality of sleep.
- Teenagers busy with schoolwork and extracurricular activities need more sleep, not less. Encourage a bedtime for your teen, especially during the school year. Sleep medicine and sleep aids should not be taken by teens, as many are not approved for kids. Parents also need to watch their teen's screen time. Tech devices used at night can affect your teen's sleep, so a rule where they cannot use laptops, tablets or phones two hours before bedtime could be the key to your child getting a good night of sleep.
- For kids of all ages, try to avoid over-scheduling their day and have time for them to unwind and relax before bedtime. Limit extracurricular activities, appointments and social events, especially during the school week. Downtime can help everyone get more shuteye.
Addressing Lack of Sleep
There are things parents can do if they feel their child isn't getting enough sleep:
- Talk to your child's daycare or teacher to see if there are any behavior issues during the day or if your child seems tired.
- Call or schedule an appointment with your child's health-care provider, pediatrician or a sleep expert and voice your concerns. Ask for sleep tips to help and if there could be conditions that need to be addressed, such as sleep apnea or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Recommended Sleep for Kids
Kids of different ages need different amounts of sleep to support their mental and physical development. Here's how it breaks down:
Newborns and Babies
- Up to 4 weeks of age: 14-17 hours per day
- 4- to 12-month-olds: 12-16 hours per day (including naps)
Toddlers and Preschoolers
- 1- to 2-year-olds: 11-14 hours per day (including naps)
- 3- to 5-year-olds: 10-13 hours per day (including naps)
- 6- to 12-year-olds: 9-12 hours per day
- 13- to 18-years-old: 8-9 hours per day
Sleep is the foundation that holds everything together. Mom and Dad, never underestimate the importance of your child getting a good night's sleep. Follow these sleep guidelines and tips to help your kids get the sleep they need.
Get more information on good sleep and sleep tips at AllThingsForKids.com.
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