by Laurie Farwell
Getting enough sleep is important for any child. Infants and toddlers require lots of sleep to support their growth and development, and to keep them in good spirits. School children need to get enough sleep to be alert in school. And kids of all ages (as well as adults) require a certain amount of sleep to stay in good health.
For most children, setting a bedtime can help ensure that they get the sleep they need. Going to bed at the same time each night has been proven to result in more sleep for kids, because it adjust their bodies’ rhythms so that they fall and stay asleep more easily. This is also good for the parents, because when the kids don’t sleep, neither do Mom and Dad.
Bedtime and Young Children
Newborns should not be expected to stick to a bedtime schedule. They rarely sleep for more than a few hours at a time, because they need to eat often. But once a baby starts sleeping through the night, you can start thinking about a bedtime. Children up to the age of three years need 10 to 13 hours of sleep each night, plus their daily nap.
If your baby or toddler isn’t getting enough sleep, it’s not hard to figure out. Some kids become hyperactive as a result of inadequate sleep, while others become lethargic. But most have a shorter attention span and are irritable or moody.
Bedtime and Older Children
Bedtime is very important for children who are in school. They have to get up at a certain time on school days, and if they don’t get to bed early enough, they won’t get the sleep they need. It’s best to enforce the same bedtime on the weekends as well, because if you don’t, it will be hard for them to keep readjusting to new schedules.
Kids between the ages of three and five need 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night. Those at the lower end of this range will need a daily nap as well, but as they get older it becomes less important. Children from six to nine years need about 10 hours a night, and preteens need 9 hours.
Signs of inadequate sleep in older children are similar to those of younger children, but perhaps less dramatic. Those who are in school, however, often reveal sleep problems through their grades and behavior in class. They may display poor memory or have trouble with decision making as well.
Sleep and Health
Sleep is crucial to the body. It is the time when our brains form long-term memories and our bodies repair themselves. A good night’s sleep is also essential to the function of the immune system. During slumber, our bodies produce hormones that we need to fight off disease. For these reasons as well as for their mental and emotional well-being, it is very important that we make sure our children get the sleep they need.
Enforcing a bedtime can seem impossible at times, but it is well worth it. Doing so makes things easier when it’s time for the kids to get up in the morning, it enhances their performance at school, and it keeps them healthy. It’s never too late to start a soothing bedtime routine that will help your child get the rest she needs.