Importance of Sleep
As a parent, it is important to note that sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise. Sleep is a significant factor in a child’s mental and physical well-being and is important for many health-related reasons.
- Sleep promotes growth because growth hormones are released during sleep. In fact, experts believe that up to 75% of the human growth hormone is released during sleep.
- Sleep supports heart health because it helps protect the heart from vascular damage.
- Sleep helps children stay healthy because proper sleep helps fight off germs.
- Sleep aids children with maintaining a healthy body weight because those that don’t get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight.
- Sleep boosts a child’s attention span. In fact, a child that sleeps less than 10 hours per night prior to age 3, is 3 times more likely to experience hyperactivity by age 6.
- Sleep minimizes the risk of injury because a tired child can become clumsy and impulsive.
- Sleep helps with emotional regulation. Children who sleep better are better equipped to control their emotional responses, which equates to having fewer tantrums.
Getting The Right Amount of Sleep
Now that you understand the importance of getting proper sleep, it is essential to know what the right amount of sleep is for each age group. This way, you will know how to properly adjust your child’s sleep schedule as they age. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), here are the recommended amounts of sleep for pediatric populations.
- Infants (4-12 months old): 12-16 hours of sleep per day (including naps)
- Toddlers (1-2 years old): 11-14 hours of sleep per day (including naps)
- Toddlers & Children (3-5 years old): 10-13 hours of sleep per day (including naps)
- Children (6-12 years old): 9-12 hours per day
- Teenagers (13-18 years old): 8-10 hours per day
Promoting Sleep Health
Now that we have outlined the proper amount of sleep for each age group, it is important to address steps for promoting sleep health. The truth of the matter is not all children are good sleepers but not to worry because there are things you can do to ensure your child is getting proper rest. For instance, establishing and maintaining a strict bedtime routine can help parents help their kids get the recommended amount of sleep for their age group.
It is true that getting into and maintaining a routine can take work but with all of the benefits, it is well worth the effort. If you are unsure about where to start with implementing a solid sleep routine, here are a few suggestions.
- Set a schedule and stick to it. It is important to make sleep a priority and to do that, it is important to set (and of course, stick to) a time for going to bed and for waking up. With that being said, it is recommended to start a bedtime routine about 30 minutes prior to the time you would like your child to be asleep.
- Set the mood by creating an ideal sleeping environment. Dim the lights, shut the shades, pull the curtains, set the thermostat to the ideal temperature for sleeping (babies= 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit, toddlers & small children = 66-72 degrees) turn electronic devices off (tv, tablets, phones, etc), turn on white noise and a nightlight if used by a child.
- Establish a nightly routine. Some helpful ideas include giving your child a warm bath/shower, dressing them in footies, pajamas or a sleeper sack, using the restroom, brushing teeth, saying goodnight to favorite animals/dolls/toys, tucking your child into bed, reading a favorite story, singing a lullaby or saying a prayer and giving them a hug and/or kiss goodnight.
- Additional advice for promoting sleep health includes avoiding sugary snacks before bed and abstaining from any roughhousing or horseplay that might rile up a child. Also remember to be patient because it will likely take a couple of weeks to establish a consistent and smooth bedtime routine.
Following all of these suggestions will help you help your child get the amount of sleep they need to live their best lives. As parents and guardians, it is our job to make sure we are doing everything in our power to ensure our little ones happiness and health, which is why proper sleep is so important. Also know that if you aren’t currently enforcing a strict bedtime routine, it's never too late to start. So, what are you waiting for?