Children today have busy schedules. School starts bright and early (a little too early if you ask me!). Kids rush home from school just to run off to their many after school activities like soccer practice, dance lessons, or scout activities. Then it’s dinner, homework, clean up, baths, and eventually they crawl into bed in hopes that they can rest their growing minds and bodies so they can get up and do it all again tomorrow.
Sleep seems like such a minor part of their super busy day which leads to the question – Are children today getting enough sleep?
The National Sleep Foundation offers this guideline regarding how many hours of sleep a child should get during a 24 hour period:
- Newborns (birth to 2 months): 10.5 – 18 hours
- Infants (3-11 months): 9-12 hours
- Toddlers (age 1-3): 12-14 hours
- Preschoolers (age 3-5): 11-13 hours
- School-age (age 5-12): 10-11 hours
- Adolescent (age12 – 18): at least 8 1/2 hours
Children that don’t get enough sleep may not show any symptoms of sleep deprivation but most do. Many children who are over tired and sleepy will demonstrate increased whining, behavior problems, mood swings, hyperactivity, slower reaction times, learning difficulties, and weight problems.
Here are some tips for helping children get the sleep they need:
- Develop a regular sleep schedule from an early age – encourage nap schedules for young children and routine bedtimes for older children
- Encourage a relaxing bed time routine – warm bath, reading, soft lighting. relaxing background music
- Create a comforting sleep environment – cool, quiet, and dark
- Allow for a little bit of unstructured down time – no scheduled activities like sports or other extra-curricular activities during this time
- Exposure to natural outdoor light during mornings and mid-day – recess is definitely a good thing! The National Wildlife Federation actually has a great guide for parents that discusses how time spent outdoors actually helps to improve how children sleep at night.
- Turn off electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime – tv shows and video games may provide too much excitement to allow child to adequately wind down for bedtime
- Teach school-aged children the importance of good sleep habits for a healthy body – sleep is good for overall physical and mental health
- Teens may need help addressing issues of anxiety or depression that are affecting their sleep – is there a serious problem that needs professional help?
- Have your child checked by their doctor to be sure that they don’t have a more serious sleep disorder – sleep apnea and other medical issues may be the cause for not getting enough zzz’s.