Healthy sleep habits for a child are as important as they are essential for health, proper growth and a happy child. Children, who get plenty of sleep every night function better throughout the day, are more alert, and their concentration, memory, and performance are better than those who do not sleep well. In addition, children with no sleep problems are less likely to develop behavioral problems of any kind, moodiness, anxiety or depression.
Sleep requirements vary from child to child, but school age children generally require in the region of nine to twelve hours of sleep per night. If you are unsure whether or not your child is getting enough sleep every night, consider the following –
- If a child can fall asleep within a period of fifteen to thirty minutes, then they are getting enough sleep
- If the child wakes up easily in the morning that is a good sign that they are getting sufficient sleep
- If the child is wide awake, energetic and alert throughout the school day then the nighttime sleep is sufficient.
It is important to explain to your child why getting enough sleep every night is significant, not only in terms of their health but also for performance in school and other activities such as sports, music, playtime, etc.
Above all else the number one tip to encourage healthy sleep habits in your child is to develop and follow a routine before bedtime. Children like predictability and a bedtime routine makes it easier for a child to calm down after their busy day, crawl into bed and drift off to sleep.
A typical bedtime routine for a child should be something along the lines of –
- A light supper such as milk and biscuits, but avoid chocolate biscuits as they contain caffeine
- A relaxing bath
- Dry off and put on pajamas
- Go to the toilet
- Wash face and brush teeth
- Read a bedtime story
Always ensure that a child’s room is at a comfortable temperature and that it is peaceful and quiet. Also, many children do not want to be left in the complete darkness while they sleep so investing in a nightlight is a worthwhile purchase to make. And remember, stick to the same bedtime routine every night.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with an occasional change in the bedtime routine, such as when nanny and gramps come to visit or during a holiday period, but for the most part, a consistent bedtime routine is best.
It is an excellent idea to devise a specific cut off time for entertainment for your child, in terms of television, video games, the computer and so on. It is not a good idea to have a television or a computer in a child’s bedroom, as they can be easily distracted or tempted to play after they are told to switch off. This can also lead to a bad habit of only being able to fall asleep when the television is on.
An even better recommendation is to cease TV and video viewing an hour or so before bedtime in order to make the preparation for sleep as calm and relaxing experience as possible. A child does not need anything stimulating before bedtime. A recent study into this showed that watching television right before bedtime can inhibit a child’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Child Sleep Disorders
Children can suffer from sleep disorders just as much as people of any age can. Sleep apnea, insomnia, teeth grinding or bruxism, bed wetting or enuresis, asthma that is nocturnal in nature and nightmares can all occur in children.
If your child is having problems with sleep the sooner you make a visit to the doctor to decide upon a course of action, the better. Stress can cause sleepless nights for children so always encourage your son or daughter to talk with you about any concerns or worries they may have. Stress could be caused by family problems, school related problems such as bullying, anxiety about exams, peer pressure and so on.
Try to make the whole sleep experience as positive and uplifting as it can be. Encourage your child to learn how to fall asleep by themselves and not to need to rely on you.
Research has proven that a child sleeping in a parent’s bed runs a risk being suffocated or strangled and also fosters dependence to an unhealthy extent.
None of these things are as likely to happen when the child is alone in their own bed. It is children who can be alone and fall asleep by themselves who learn better how to cope with moments when they are awakened during the night.
Healthy Sleep Habits and bedtime routines make for a Happy Child.