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Published on September 20, 2018

goodnight moon illustration

For Kids, Sweet Dreams Are Made of These

Many parents have spent the last few weeks getting their kids readjusted to the school-night bedtime routine. Just how much sleep do kids need and how can parents promote quality sleep and good sleep environments?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, kids need different amounts of sleep at different ages:

  • 1-2 year olds; 9-11 hours
  • 3-5 year olds; 8-10 hours
  • 6-13 year olds; 9-11 hours
  • 14-17 year olds; 8-10 hours

Sleep needs vary among individual children, so an hour more or less would still be acceptable.

Quality as well as Quantity

People who get enough sleep, but who have trouble falling asleep, wake frequently, or never achieve deep sleep will feel the effects. Kids are no different. Kids who sleep poorly may have behavior issues, have trouble focusing, or lack energy.

Tips for Quality Sleep for Kids

  • Establish a predictable bedtime routine: bath or shower, snack, teeth brushing, reading or talking about the day.
  • Find out what helps your child sleep – temperature, soft music, white noise from a fan, calming scents.
  • Turn off all screens an hour before bedtime. This includes parents! The blue light and dancing pixels coming from screens can actually rev up the brain instead of relaxing it for sleep.
  • Minimize blue light in the bedroom. There is some evidence that blue light decreases melatonin, the naturally occurring “sleep hormone” that tells our bodies when it’s time to relax and sleep. Consider replacing white night light bulbs with red bulbs.
  • Children should never have televisions, computers, tablets, phones or other devices in their bedrooms.

A Tough Step That Is Necessary

Parents need to collect all devices at bedtime – even for teenagers – and put them away until morning. Notification tones on devices disrupt sleep and kids don’t have the self-control to ignore them. No child should be up at night answering texts or checking social media. The lack of sleep that results has been linked to poor school performance and even depression.

If you lived 150 years ago in a claim shanty on the South Dakota prairie, your only artificial light sources were probably candles, a fireplace, or a kerosene lantern. They did not provide enough light for much beyond basic tasks. So people went to bed earlier and got up with the sun, maximizing the body’s natural sleep/wake cycles.

People also did more physical labor, so they were more tired at night. Today, we can have as much light as we want, day or night. This means that parents have to be more proactive in establishing good bedtime routines, and managing their child’s sleep environment.

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