Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to bed they go!
For some families, healthy sleeping habits are difficult to establish, as work schedules fluctuate and bedtime routines are non-existent. However, children need healthy sleeping habits as much as they need nutritious meals, sunshine and water. Why? Not only does sleep play a major role in a child’s overall development, it helps their brains prepare to learn.
Studies have shown that kids who get enough sleep tend to have better attention spans, memory, behavior and social skills. The big question is, how much sleep does a child need? According to Johns Hopkins, children need varying amounts of sleep based on their age:
- Infants under 1 year need 12-16 hours
- Children 1-2 years old need 11-14 hours
- Children 3-5 years old need 10-13 hours
- Children 6-12 years old need 9-12 hours
- Teenagers 13-18 years old need 8-10 hours
You know your child best. If you notice they tend to function better with more sleep, make every effort to ensure they get the hours needed. Even if your older children argue they don’t need as much sleep, insist on an appropriate bedtime and stick to it. This will help motivate them in the early mornings before school and ensure they have the best start to their school day.
No matter what your children’s ages, here are 10 quick tips to help you establish healthier sleeping habits in your family:
- Allow for plenty of sunshine and outdoor activity during the day. This will help establish and balance their circadian rhythm (the 24-hour cycle that is part of the body’s internal clock).
- Put them to bed at the same time every night, even on most weekends and holidays.
- Develop a calming bedtime routine such as a warm bath, quiet reading time, soft music and family prayer.
- Talk about positive, light-hearted things before bed such as their favorite hobbies or interests.
- Set a timer for small children so they know when it’s time to wrap up their activities and start getting ready for bed.
- Turn off all electronics at least one hour before bedtime. Blue lights from televisions and computer screens can decrease melatonin levels and delay tiredness.
- Keep all electronics, including phones, in your room at night.
- Limit snacks and drinks in the evening—especially caffeinated or sugary items.
- Allow a nightlight, but find one with a dim, warm-colored bulb.
- Try using a fan or white noise machine in their rooms.
Don’t underestimate the importance of healthy sleeping habits. Good quality sleep will not only help your mornings run smoothly, it will prepare your child’s brain for a busy day of learning, growth and development. While your children might be resistant at first, these bedtime routines will soon become familiar and automatic. This is one area you don’t want to overlook as you encourage healthy sleeping habits for overall wellbeing and long-term success.