As your child continues to grow and grow and grow, building and maintaining healthy sleep habits from a young age is critical for their ongoing development.
“Regularly getting a good night’s sleep is important for everyone — but especially so for children and teenagers,” says Abigail Sanders, CPNP-PC, a nurse practitioner who specializes in pediatric care associated with Lewisburg Pediatrics. “As children grow, sleep has a positive effect on their overall mental and physical health. Not getting enough sleep, however, can lead to struggles now and later in life with health conditions like high blood pressure or obesity as well as depression, anxiety, learning difficulties, trouble concentrating and behavioral problems.”
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, children ages 3 to 5 should get 10 to 13 hours of sleep per day, while children ages 6 to 12 should get 9 to 12 hours. Teenagers should average 8 to 10 hours. To make that possible, Sanders recommends the following tips to help your child build — and maintain — healthy sleep habits:
- Follow a consistent schedule and routine. Make a plan — and stick to it! — to start winding down for the night at a consistent time throughout the week. Establish certain routines that your child can associate with bedtime: taking a bath, listening to soothing music, completing a puzzle or reading a book.
- Limit caffeine. Caffeine is a type of stimulant designed to help you stay awake. Consuming it, especially later in the day, can lead to increased trouble sleeping as well as other side effects like anxiety, upset stomach, headaches, high blood pressure and a faster heart rate.
- Limit screen time — particularly in the evenings. Too much access to technology before bed can mean your child has a more difficult time falling asleep due to increased brain activity and additional distractions. Consider setting a strict time-out on technology at a regular time each night and, if possible, keep TVs, computers and other electronic devices out of your child’s room. This is especially true for teenagers and cell phones. Experts find that when teenagers aren’t sleeping well, it is often due to difficulty disconnecting from their text messages or social media feeds — a distraction that can keep them up into the late hours of the night as they are trying to fall asleep.
- Stay active throughout the day but don’t overdo it. Activities like sports or time outside are great ways to burn energy, enjoy fresh air and help your child stay in shape. However, too much physical activity later in the day may lead to your child having a difficult time settling down at night due to being overtired. If your child has had a particularly busy day, help them wind down with quiet, soothing activities at least an hour before bedtime.
“If your child still continues to struggle with getting enough sleep, they may be coping with a sleep disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea, sleepwalking, sleep terrors, insomnia or restless leg syndrome,” Sanders says. “Consider talking with your pediatrician to see if a sleep study may help to find the underlying cause.”
Abigail Sanders, CPNP-PC,
is a board-certified nurse practitioner who specializes in pediatric care. She is associated with Lewisburg Pediatrics.