Sleep is a vital need, essential to a child’s health and growth. Sleep promotes alertness, memory, performance and mood moderation. Really, Getting enough sleep is crucial to everything! Children who get enough sleep are more likely to function better and are less prone to behavioral problems, moodiness and general negative effects on their physical, emotional and social health.
Many children go through their days sleep-deprived. When children do not get enough sleep their actions can be wrongly classified as “behavior problems.” Due to lack of sleep, they may have trouble controlling their emotions. This happens because the part of the brain that helps us regulate our responses and actions is greatly affected by the amount of sleep we get. That is why it is important for parents to start early and help their children develop good sleep habits.
How can you tell if your child is not getting enough sleep?
Some symptoms, like constant yawning or droopy eyes, are easy to recognize in a child. But others aren’t as obvious. Check out these common signs, which change as your little one gets older.
Babies and Toddlers
• Is cranky, whiny, or fussy, especially in the late afternoon on a regular basis
• Acts especially clingy, needy
• Displays fidgety, antsy, or hyperactive behavior
• Has trouble sharing, taking turns
• Is not talkative, taciturn
• Wakes up groggy; falls asleep after being woken up and needs to be woken again
• Wants to lie down or nap during the day
• Falls asleep during short car rides
• Has difficulty changing from two naps to one nap a day
Kids In preschool
• Is Hyperactive
• Falls asleep at inappropriate times
• Needs to be woken in the morning, sometimes multiple times
• Lacks interest, alertness, motivation, and/or an attention span
• Seems drowsy at school or at home during homework
• Has academic struggles
• Has trouble falling asleep
• Falls asleep during short car rides
• Experiences night terrors/sleepwalking for the first time
• Needs regular naps
• Exhibits loud snoring, breaks in breathing, or extreme restlessness at night
• Has anxiety about being separated from you during the day and night
Sometimes Parents are unsure of actually how much sleep a child needs. This chart presents recommended hours of sleep that includes naps for children up to five years of age. A point to remember is that each child is different and has different sleep needs.
Infants 4 to 12 months: 12 to 16 hours of sleep every 24 hours (including naps).
Children 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours of sleep every 24 hours (including naps).
Children 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours of sleep every 24 hours (including naps).
Children 6 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours of sleep every 24 hours.
The chart lists the average amount of sleep for each age group. Some children need a bit more sleep or are able to do well with a little less sleep. Your aim is to ensure that your child is getting the right amount for him/her. If your child is showing the symptoms mentioned above, it is time to assist her to get that much needed rest and most importantly, a good sleeping routine. Here is how…
• Pick a natural bedtime when your child gets physically tired and begins to slow down.
• Create a consistent, simple bedtime ritual. Include quiet activities such as a song, a story, a bath and calm, quiet cuddling. End the routine with turning the lights down and saying, “goodnight.”
• Allow only two comfort items for sleeping — any more could be distracting.
• Be consistent and firm about the purpose of bedtime. Bedtime is for lying in the bed and falling asleep.
• Use bedtime as an enjoyable, resting, cuddling and sleeping time, never as punishment.
• Use dim lights for sleeping times and brighter lights during awake times.
• Avoid foods and drinks that contain lots of sugar and caffeine throughout the day.
• Encourage children to fall asleep on their own as this will enable her to return to sleep during normal nighttime awakenings and sleep throughout the night.
• Discourage Nighttime Awakening, babies who are held and cuddled when they wake in the middle of the night soon learn to expect this and do not learn to go back to sleep on their own. It is important to give your child a consistent message that they are expected to fall asleep on their own.
Be the sleep model for your child
Setting earlier bedtimes and getting ready for the next day the night before helps everyone sleep better. Parents should model good sleep habits and child will learn them. Prepare your children’s school items at night time to teach them good sleep routine. The more consistent you can be with regards to regular sleep habits, the more likely your child will have better sleep
A considerable number of children, kindergarten through fourth grade, suffer from at least one sleep-related problem. If your child experiences any of these sleep problems or is very sleepy during the day, be sure to consult with your child’s physician to discuss sleep concerns:
• Your child seems to have excessive fears or anxiety around going to sleep
• Snoring that is loud or disruptive
• Frequent nighttime awakenings
• Nighttime bedwetting that persists past the age of 7
• Excessive daytime sleepiness, in spite of adequate hours of sleep?
Read a bedtime story. You already know reading to kids helps them learn, but hearing storybooks is a great way for kids to head off to dreamland. Of all activities, reading printed books appears to be most relaxing.