A good bedtime routine is crucial for children's growth and development. However, getting kids to go to bed can be challenging.
Sleep patterns change throughout life. Adults often desire more sleep but often fall short. For children, it's our responsibility to ensure their essential sleep needs are met. While sleep times vary based on individual needs, here's a general guide for how much sleep children require.
- Newborns (0 to 1 year): 16 hours
- Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours
- Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours
- School-aged (6 to 13 years): 9 to 11 hours
- Teenagers (14 to 17 years): 8 to 10 hours
The sleep needs of children are vitally important. Getting enough sleep can have serious impacts on their development both physically and mentally. It helps them re-charge after a day of school and play.
When children do not get the sleep they need, it can affect their ability to learn at school and can also affect their mood and behavior.
Here are few tips to establish good sleep habits for your children:
Set a specific bedtime
Establishing a consistent bedtime for your child is both challenging and essential. Each child is unique, so adjusting to a new routine may be difficult if they haven't had a set bedtime before. It's important to explain the new routine to your child and address any questions they may have to ease the transition. When determining the bedtime, it's crucial to prioritize the child's needs and natural rhythms instead of solely focusing on parental convenience. Older children and teenagers should be given reasonable input in setting their bedtime.
Set a relaxing bedtime routine
To enhance bedtime for younger children, consider integrating bath time as a pre-bed routine. After the bath, create a special moment in their room to help them relax and foster bonding. Playing soothing "sleepy time" music for 20 to 30 minutes can be enjoyable together. Additionally, incorporate story time by sharing a book while they are in bed to help them settle down. Younger children may even drift off to sleep during this activity. Implementing a rewards system, such as a chart with gold stars for successfully going through the routine and getting to bed without fuss, can serve as a motivating incentive for them.
Set up a “Plan B”
As you begin to incorporate a set bedtime routine, there will be times when younger children may have difficulty during the adjustment period. Here are a few tips if things do not go as planned as you begin to set the new boundaries:
- If your child cries, speak calmly and reassure them, "You are fine. It's time to go to sleep." Then leave the room.
- Don't give a bottle or pick up your child.
- Stretch out the time between trips to the room if your child continues. Don't do anything but talk calmly and leave.
- If your child is used to getting a large amount of milk right at bedtime, start to cut down the amount of milk in the bottle by 1/2 to 1 ounce each night until the bottle is empty. Then take it away completely.
Sticking to this routine will help your child calm down and fall asleep. It may take several nights for them to adjust to the new plan. Occasionally, disruptions like illness or travel can throw off their sleep routine. When things return to normal, make a swift return to good sleep habits.
Shut off those electronics
To improve a child's ability to fall asleep, turn off or put electronic devices in sleep mode as they can disrupt natural sleep-wake cycles. Establish a set time for electronics to be off, including phones and computers, even though teens may find it challenging to part with their phones. Research has shown the stimulating effect of electronics on sleep.
Establishing a bedtime routine for your child may take some trial and error, but don't give up. Consistency is important, so be prepared to address any challenges like resistance or difficulty falling asleep. Patience and persistence are key in creating a successful routine that meets your child's needs and promotes peaceful sleep.
For more information about sleep services at Tanner, visit TannerSleep.org.