Children of all ages need adequate sleep for proper growth and development. When they consistently don’t get enough sleep, kids display more problem behavior, do worse in school, and get sick more often due to a weakened immune system. Since the sleep habits that a child develops by age 5 will carry through to adulthood, it’s essential to develop healthy habits early in life.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated in a 2015 report that infants need 16 to 18 hours of sleep per day. Recommendations for other age groups include:
- Toddlers: 12 to 14 hours
- Preschoolers: 11 to 12 hours
- Elementary students: 10 hours
- Teenagers: 9 hours
- Adults can typically function well on 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night
Teaching Your Child Good Sleep Habits
The younger the child, the more you may battle him or her to go to bed each night. Just when you need some time to yourself, your child starts whining, throws a tantrum, or tries one stalling technique after another to avoid hitting the hay. It seems like most kids fear they’re going to miss something exciting by going to bed. They’re also too young to appreciate that a good night’s sleep is necessary for physical and emotional health.
Creating a nighttime routine and sticking to it helps your child learn what you expect when it’s time for bed. That doesn’t mean he or she won’t fight you on it, but consistency pays off eventually. For a preschool-aged child, the routine could include taking a bath, brushing teeth, getting into pajamas, and reading a story with you. Children who are afraid of the dark do better with a nightlight in their room. After completing the bedtime routine, give your child a kiss goodnight and leave the room despite any protests.
Sleeping Independently is the Goal
Children of preschool age and younger naturally need their parents to help them follow a bedtime routine. Once they get older than that, you can make it a goal to have them get ready and go to bed with minimal prompting from you. That may not happen every night, so be sure to praise any efforts towards independence that your child displays. Your praise sends a message to your child that you believe he or she can do it. Since most kids delight in pleasing their parents, your child will feel eager to show you again the next night how grownup he or she is becoming.
Don’t be afraid to speak to your pediatrician if sleep continues to be a battle at your house despite your best efforts. Your child’s doctor could have some ideas that you might have never considered.