According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep hygiene is “a variety of different practices and habits that are necessary to have good nighttime sleep quality and full daytime alertness.”
Why is Sleep Important?
Getting healthy sleep is important for both physical and mental health. It can also improve productivity and overall quality of life. Lets look at some examples:
- Healthy Growth – Did you know that growth hormone is primarily secreted during deep sleep, and that Italian researchers, studying children with deficient levels of growth hormone, have found that they sleep less deeply than average children do?
- The Weight Connection – Children, like adults, crave higher-fat or higher-carb foods when they’re tired” says Dorit Koren, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist and sleep researcher at the University of Chicago “Tired children also tend to be more sedentary, so they burn fewer calories.”
- Immune Function – During sleep, children (and adults) also produce proteins known as cytokines, which the body relies on to fight infection, illness, and stress. Too little sleep appears to impact the number of cytokines on hand.
- Managing Moods and Impulses – For school-age kids, research has shown that adding as little as 27 minutes of extra sleep per night makes it easier for them to manage their moods and impulses so they can focus on schoolwork.
How much sleep does my child need?
Every child is different. Some sleep a lot and others much less. This chart is a general guide to the amount of sleep children need over a 24-hour period, including nighttime sleep and daytime naps.
|Infants (4 to 12 months old)||12-16 hours|
|Toddlers (1 to 2 years old)||11-14 hours|
|Children (3 to 5 years old)||10-13 hours|
|Children (6-12 years)||9-12 hours|
|Teenagers (13-18 years old)||8-10 hours|
Source: Recommended Amount of Sleep for Pediatric Populations: A Consensus Statement (American Academy of Sleep Medicine)
Healthy Sleep Habits for Children
Healthy sleep habits start from birth, but life also presents many challenges to developing and sticking to a healthy sleep routine for ourselves and our children. “…it can be very difficult to recognize all the ways that after-school and evening activities sabotage bedtime,” says Parents advisor Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., associate director of the Sleep Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Here are some tips for different ages from “Caring For Kids“, so you can help your child(ren) get the most of every day:
Babies (0-4 months):
- Napping actually helps a baby to sleep better at night, so schedule some naps during the day.
- Put your baby in bed when they are drowsy, but awake. Remember to put them to sleep on their back in their crib, on a firm, flat surface. Keep soft items like pillows and stuffed animals out of the crib.
- It’s okay to cuddle and rock your baby. You cannot spoil a young baby by holding them.
- A pacifier may comfort and help your baby to settle. However, it’s best not to start using a pacifier until breastfeeding is going well.
- Your baby will stir during the night. Give them a few minutes to try and settle on his their before going to them.
- Avoid stimulation during nighttime feedings and diaper changes. Keep the lights dim.
Infants (4-12 months):
- Maintain a regular daytime and bedtime sleep schedule as much as possible.
- A consistent bedtime routine is important. Many parents like to use the “3 Bs”: bath, book, bed.
- Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle. This can lead to tooth decay.
- At around 6 months, if your baby wakes at night and cries, go check to see if there is anything wrong, such as being too cold or too warm, and without picking them up, comfort them by stroking their forehead or talking softly to let them know you’re there. This helps your baby learn how to self-soothe, important steps toward falling back to sleep on their own.
Toddler (1-2 years):
- It’s still important to keep a sleep schedule your child is familiar with. The routine you established during the first year is even more important for your toddler.
- Avoid naps that are too late in the day, because at this age, they can affect nighttime sleeping.
- Help your child wind down about half an hour before bedtime with stories and quiet activities.
- Be gentle but firm if your child protests.
- Keep the bedroom quiet, cozy, and good for sleeping, such as keeping the lights dim.
- Soft, soothing music might be comforting.
- Security items (such as a blanket or stuffed animal) are often important at this age.
Preschoolers (3-5 years):
- Don’t give your child drinks with caffeine.
- Avoid screens before bedtime. Don’t allow tablets, televisions, computer or video games in the bedroom.
- Some children will try to delay bedtime. Set limits, such as how many books you will read together, and be sure your child knows what they are.
- Tuck your child into bed snugly for a feeling of security.
- Don’t ignore bedtime fears. If your child has nightmares, reassure and comfort them.