Many of us know that children need sleep. But how much is enough?
American Academy of Pediatricians supports the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommendations for children
- “Infants 4 months to 12 months should sleep 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
- Children 1 to 2 years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
- Children 3 to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
- Children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep 9 to 12 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
- Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health. “
Many of you are saying this is hard if not impossible. How do you feel when you have not gotten enough sleep and it is time for work the next day? Can you focus on work? Are you productive? This is how our children feel going to school without enough sleep.
Not new information
In 1904, G. Stanley Hall expressed in his book Adolescence “No one should be allowed to go to school at all without nine hours of sleep.” I agree. Sleep plays a huge role in our children’s ability to function in the school day. Studies show that students who have daytime sleepiness have a reduction in executive functioning skills like difficulty focusing and having poor concentration in class.
Research is beginning to focus on the start time of schools as an indication of school performance as well. One study looked at the difference a one-hour delay made in achievement test scores for middle school students. Students who attended school one hour later had better achievement in test scores.
Another impact on sleep is living in conditions that are chaotic whether due to poverty, instability in the home, crowding, noise or lack of routine and structure. Children need secure living environments and need this in order to get a good sleep at night. One study found that children who have chaotic living environments and have sleep problems, have difficulty responding to academic challenges in the classroom. Children exposed to stressors and have sleep problems are not as equipped biologically to deal with stressors.
We should recognize the individual needs of sleep for our children and create sleep schedules that meet the needs of our children. Studies have shown that lack of sleep is associated with cognitive impairment, developmental disorders and behavior problems in children. In layman terms, without sleep your child can not think, learn, control themselves or behave in school. Sleep is essential to their everyday functioning.
Sleep Tips for All Ages
Tip- Schedule your week with sleep in mind. We have all of our activities on a weekly calendar. This makes it easy to see when things are over and when we should realistically make it to bed.
Tip- Set a set bedtime as a goal. There are nights when we do not reach the 8pm deadline for bed and that is okay. We try to aim for 8pm on school nights most nights out of the week.
Tip: Keep bedtimes as they age. We have held 8pm as a firm bedtime for our school age children even in middle school. They are getting up earlier and need the extra hours of sleep. We can always on demand their favorite shows to watch the next day.
Tip: Create a routine to calm down. When I worked in a residential facility, we would always dim the lights on the unit right before bed. This helped to create an atmosphere of quiet on the unit. You should have a bedtime routine based on the order of events, not the time it should happen.
Technology and Sleep
Tip: Limit technology. Whether it is a tablet or television, electronics should be kept out of the bedrooms and limited in the evening. This helps to create a space that is calming and quiet in your child’s bedroom. With everything being a handheld device these days, this is often hard for parents to manage.
Tip: Keep rooms technology free. Try to determine while your child is still an infant what will be in their bedroom as they age. Making this a routine from infancy is easier to manage as they grow.
Tip: Have quiet toys in their room at bedtime. Toddlers can use dolls, blocks, puzzles, cars, and small toys in their room to keep them busy.
Tip: Use music instead. Radios and music can be used as a substitute for televisions and screen devices. Some children benefit from sound machines or a little music to help them to fall asleep at night.
Difficulty Getting to Sleep
Tip: Keep the noise down. Sometimes our homes can be loud with people talking, televisions going and other background noises. Try to limit your child’s exposure to extra noises at bedtime by closing the door or turning down the volume in the house.
Tip: Recognize everyone has a different sleep pattern. One of my children will fall asleep anywhere- shopping carts, kitchen table, anywhere. My other one is a night owl. Sleep has always been a challenge for her. Getting to bed is easy- getting to sleep not so easy.
Tip: Natural supplements. Melatonin- Our body produces this naturally and some of us produce lower amounts. This is often found over the counter in the vitamins section.
Tip: Warm milk- Yes grandma was right. A glass of warm milk is my daughter’s favorite go to.
Tip: Check the temperature. Children who complain about it being too hot or too cold to sleep may be on to something. Temperature can impact the quality of sleep more than outside noise. Try to use fans or extra blankets to help manage the temperature.
Tip: Don’t drink liquids. Try to limit drinking liquids 1 to 2 hours before bed. Children will often not get a good night sleep if they are needing to make bathroom runs.
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