Adequate sleep is crucial for children and teens for several reasons. Among the most important are physical and mental well-being. Getting enough sleep helps the immune system prevent illnesses and also helps the brain regulate emotions. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends just how much sleep children need:
Infants (4-12 months): 12 to16 hours, including naps
Toddlers (1-2 years): 11 to 14 hours, including naps
Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10 to 13 hours, including naps
Elementary Schoolers (6-12 years): 9 to 12 hours
Teens (13-18 years): 8 to 10 hours
Below are tips to ensure your child sleeps well:
- Follow a routine. Encourage your child to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends. Developing a consistent sleep pattern is important. Follow the same bedtime routine each day.
- No electronics one hour prior to bedtime. Use of electronics wakes up the body and disrupts the sleep cycle. Integrate electronic-free time into your child’s nightly bedtime routine. Instead, dim lights and encourage your child to read, listen to calm music or turn on a white noise machine.
- Don’t eat or drink two hours prior to bedtime. Drinking too much liquid prior to bedtime can disrupt sleep. Eating spicy foods prior to bedtime also can disrupt sleep.
- Caffeine and nicotine should not be used eight hours prior to bedtime.
- Refrain from regular exercise late in the evening. Morning or afternoon exercise is best to enhance the quality of sleep.
- For older children, avoid naps later than 3 p.m. If they insist on napping, limit time to less than an hour.
- Beds should be used only for sleep. Encourage children to play and study elsewhere.
- Sleeping medication should only be used under the direction of a physician.
- Develop a plan if your child struggles to fall asleep. Encourage him or her to relax and tell himself or herself “I will fall asleep eventually.” If the child cannot fall asleep after 30 minutes, get up and do something else relaxing. The child can return to bed when feeling tired.
Remember that your child will do as you do. Model healthy sleep habits and as difficult as it is, put your own electronics down an hour prior to bedtime.
Source: Allison Kranich, LCPC, CAADC
Tips adapted from DBT Skills Manual for Adolescents by Jill H. Rathus and Alec L. Miller (2015).