Sleep is a critical part of your child’s health and just as important as good nutrition and regular physical activity. An estimated 75% of school-aged children don’t get enough sleep, mostly due to environmental stimuli like screens, early school times, food sources and busy schedules.*
While healthy, consistent sleep for kids is one of the most important factors in children’s development, sleep problems are increasing among youth, causing challenges such as poor concentration, irritability, anxiety, and poor school performance. In general children (ages 4 to 12) need 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night so they can function properly during the day.
As a pediatrician and working mom, I know all too well that when little ones aren’t getting enough sleep, it can affect the whole family. Sleepless nights for children usually lead to sleepless nights for parents, which is often magnified by the stress caused by not being able to help your child to sleep.
Here are my tips to help ensure your children get the sleep they need:
- Daily exercise – Make sure your child is active during the day so they are tired at bedtime. Not only is daily physical activity important for the brain and body, being active during the day will help kids fall asleep faster at night.
- Avoid stimulation – Avoid stimulating activities such as television, tablets, video games and strenuous exercise an hour before bedtime as they can make it harder for a child to fall asleep.
- Routines are important – Try to keep the same bedtime routine as much as possible, such as bath, pajamas, book, and bed. Limit routine to 45 minutes and be consistent so your child knows what to expect and won’t keep asking for more.
- Wrap it into the routine – If your child asks for a drink of water, to use the potty, extra hugs and kisses or a special lovey as a means to prolonging bedtime routine, simply wrap that into your routine each night so they won’t have to ask for it.
- Screen-free – End screen-time at least 60 minutes before bed and avoid bringing electronics or screens into a child’s bedroom at night. Even if off and charging, knowing that it’s in the room can make it harder to fall asleep, stay asleep and get quality sleep at night.
- Ideal bedroom environment – Keep bedrooms cool, dark and quiet to make it easier to achieve a long night of sleep.
- Limit disruption – Try to limit disruptive circumstances when possible such as a bedroom facing a loud street, or sharing a room with a loud sibling that has a later bedtime. Consider using blackout shades if the sun shines directly into your child’s room.
- Listen to your child’s body — If you find your child is cranky and uncooperative in the evening, or hard to arouse in the morning, an earlier bedtime is probably in order. But if your child lies in bed singing for two hours every night, she probably just isn’t tired yet.
- Try a melatonin supplement– If you’ve tried all of this and are still having challenges getting your child to fall asleep at night, talk to your pediatrician about a low-dose melatonin supplement like new Natrol Kids Melatonin.†
- Morning praise – Build in good morning hugs, kisses and praise for your child sleeping all night long in their own bed. Parents praise is a child’s best reward (And who doesn’t love morning snuggles?)
Melatonin is a solution for occasional sleeplessness.
For more information about Tanya Altmann, MD, click here.
* Source: NCBI 2013
**Recommended by the Canadian Pediatric Society
^Nielsen x AOC, through 8/10/19