Navigating bedtime and establishing healthy sleep habits for your children can be tricky. But if your child is not getting enough sleep, there can be negative outcomes. According to a report done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children and adolescents who do not get the recommended amount of sleep for their age are at increased risk for chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and poor mental health, as well as injuries, attention and behavioral problems, and poor academic performance.
Bedtime basics are key to ensuring your child gets the right amount and best sleep for their overall health.
How much sleep does my child need?
As children grow, their sleep patterns and sleep needs will probably change. Each child will have individual factors that determine the average time they sleep. By observing your child’s sleep patterns, you can better ensure they are getting the good quality sleep they need. Here are a few guidelines to consider*:
Age Recommended sleep time
4 – 12 months 12 to 16 hours
1-2 years 11 to 14 hours
3-5 years 10 to 13 hours
6-12 years 9 to 12 hours
13-18 years 8 to 10 hours
*The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued a State of Endorsement supporting these guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).
How do I know if my child is getting enough sleep?
Healthy sleep is vital to your child’s growth and development. Without proper rest, children are more susceptible to physical, mental and emotional problems including:
• Drowsiness during the day
• Struggling in school
• Night terrors/sleepwalking
• Anxiety about being separated from you at night
• Mood swings
• Irritability and confusion
As your child gets older, be aware that the signs and symptoms of lack of sleep may change. Talk to your child’s doctor if you suspect some of these changes may be linked to their lack of sleep.
What can I do to help my child go to sleep and stay asleep?
If your child is struggling with their sleep, some simple life adjustments can make a world of difference including:
• Follow a consistent daily and bedtime routine.
• Spend one-on-one time with your child before bed doing quiet activities to help calm and reassure them such as reading.
• Monitor screen time throughout the day and limit/remove screens before bedtime.
• Avoid giving foods and drinks with stimulants, such as caffeine or sugar, to your child.
What are other reasons why my child can’t sleep?
Sleep can be affected by emotional, mental or physical issues. Diagnosing and treating sleep problems in children can be a complex and long process. Conditions such as bedwetting, restless leg syndrome, night terrors and even sleep apnea can wreak havoc on your child’s sleep, so it is important to identify how to overcome them.
If you find that your child is having trouble sleeping beyond practical solutions, discuss your child’s sleep problems and habits with their pediatrician. Most sleep problems are easily treated and can be improved with close monitoring.
University Health System Children’s Health offers comprehensive pediatric services, from primary care to advanced specialized care. The Pediatric Sleep Lab provides a variety of services and treatment options to children suffering from sleep problems or conditions.