Eating right and getting enough movement in the day are important to your child’s development. Equally important is getting enough sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends different amounts of sleep for different ages. For school age children the recommendations are:
- Ages 3-5 years: 10-13 hours per day
- Ages 6-12 years: 9-12 hours per day
Why sleep is important
Ensuring your child gets enough sleep affects your child’s health, well-being and learning.
- Too tired to learn. Not getting enough sleep is associated with poor school performance and low test scores. Sleep helps children to have better listening skills, improved attention and better memories. The brain is very active while your child sleeps. During sleep, your child’s brain processes what is learned during the day and commits that learning to memory.
- Tired and wired. When children get overtired due to early mornings and late bedtimes, an overbalance of adrenaline can make it harder for the child to get to bed and get good sleep. If this happens frequently, it can cause poor school performance and behavior issues.
- Tired and crabby. It’s hard for a tired child to manage their emotions. Lack of sleep can lead to behavior problems in school, moodiness, impulsive behaviors and increased tantrums.
- Weight gain. Sleep deprivation can disrupt hormones that regulate hunger and appetite. Your child may think they are hungry when they are actually tired, causing overeating. Tired children also struggle with having energy to move; this also affects a child’s weight.
Establishing a bedtime routine
Getting your child to bed on time each night can become challenging when trying to balance homework, activities and family time. Keep in mind the importance of having a consistent bedtime routine as much as possible. Doing the same things in the same order every night helps your child know what is expected. Try to keep the bedtime routine no longer than 30 minutes; if not managed a child will quickly take control and delay going to bed. Consider these bedtime routine ideas:
- Turn off the TV at least 30 minutes before bedtime to allow your child’s brain to calm down for sleep
- Plan for bath time to calm the body and mind
- Use soft lamp lighting for bedtime stories to signal to your child’s brain that bedtime is coming soon
- Give your child a gentle back massage
- Read to your child, or have them read to you
- Take time to talk about your child’s day
Try to stick to your routine, even on weekends as much as possible.
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