Helping your child get enough sleep each night is as important to their health as making sure they eat nutritious food each day. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Sleep Foundation recommend 10-12 hours of sleep each night for children ages 3-14. When we do not get enough sleep, we have difficulty concentrating and paying attention. We are more irritable, more impatient, more easily frustrated, and more impulsive in both our thinking and behavior. Additionally, our brain consolidates what we have learned and experienced throughout the day while we are sleeping. Getting ample sleep helps the brain retain and recall the skills and concepts we have learned.
One important strategy is to establish a regular bedtime routine beginning 15-20 minutes before the time you want your child to go to sleep. You and your child might even create it together, perhaps something like this:
- put on pajamas
- brush teeth
- turn the lights down low
- read a book together
- turn lights out and tuck child into bed
- snuggle for a few minutes
Experts also recommend keeping the bedroom cool, quiet, and dark, limiting exposure to electronics (TV, computer, video games) right before bedtime, and making sure children do not have access to a TV, computer, tablet, or cell phone in their bedrooms.
Helping our children get enough sleep every night positively impacts their ability to learn, their moods, and their health. It will also help them develop their own healthy, lifelong sleep habits.