Good sleep habits for children are as important as they are an essential for health, proper growth and well-being. Children who get plenty of sleep every night do better throughout the day, are more alert, and their concentration, memory, and performance are better than those who dont sleep well. As well children with sleep problems are less likely to develop behavioral problems of any kind, moodiness, anxiety or depression.
Needs for sleep vary from child to child but school age children in general require in the area of nine to twelve hours of sleep per night.
If you are unsure whether or not your child is getting enough sleep every night consider these things
- if a child can fall asleep within a period of fifteen minutes to a half an hour than he or she is getting enough sleep
- if he/she wakes up easily in the morning that is a good sign
- if he/she is wide awake, energetic and alert throughout the school day then the nighttime sleep is sufficient
It is important to explain to your child why getting enough sleep every night is significant, not only in terms of his/her health but also for performance in school and other activities such as sports, music, playtime, etc.
The number one tip to encourage good sleep habits in your child is to develop and follow a routine before bedtime. A routine is good for children because children like predictability and a bedtime routine makes it easier for a kid to calm down after their busy day, crawl into bed and drift off to sleep.
A typical bedtime routine for a child should look something like this- a light snack (such as milk and cookies, but avoid chocolate cookies as they contain caffeine), a relaxing bath, dry off and put on pajamas, wash face and brush teeth, read a bedtime story and then its good night and lights out. Always ensure that a childs room is at a comfortable temperature (the mid sixties is good) and that it is peaceful and quiet.
Also many children do not want to be left in the complete darkness while they sleep so getting a nightlight is a worthwhile purchase to make. And remember, stick to the same bedtime every night. An occasional change in the bedtime routine, such as when grandparents visit or during a holiday weekend is one thing, but for the most part, a consistent routine is best.
Time to go to Sleep
It is an excellent idea to devise a specific cut-off time for entertainment for your child, in terms of television, video games, and the computer and so on. It is not a good idea to have a television or a computer in a childs bedroom, as they can be easily distracted or tempted to play after they are told, “Enough for today.”.
It is an even better idea to cease television, computer or videos an hour before bedtime in order to make the preparation for sleep a calm and relaxing experience. A child does not need anything stimulating before bedtime. In fact a recent study into this showed that watching television right before bedtime can inhibit a childs ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Children can suffer from sleep disorders just like people of any age can. Sleep apnea, insomnia, bruxism(teeth grinding), enuresis (bed wetting), asthma that is nocturnal in nature and nightmares can all occur in children.
If your child is having problems with sleep the sooner you make a visit to the doctor to decide upon a course of action, the better. Stress can cause sleepless nights for children so always encourage your son or daughter to talk with you about any concerns or worries he or she is having, whether they be family problems, school related problems (such as peer pressure, bullying, anxiety about tests or grades) and so on.
Try to make the whole sleep experience as positive and uplifting as can be. Encourage your child to learn how to fall asleep on his/her own and not to need to rely on you. Research has proven that a child sleeping in a parents bed runs a risk of them suffocating or being strangled and also fosters dependence to an unhealthy extent.
None of these things are as likely to happen when the child is alone in their own bed. It is the kid who can be alone and fall asleep by him/herself who learns better how to cope with moments when he or she is awakened during the night. The only time that you might want to stay with your child until they fall asleep is if they are sick or extremely fearful.