Tips to Get Kids to Go to Sleep
Getting children of all ages to sleep (and staying asleep through the night) can be a daunting task for any parent or caregiver. Sleep becomes increasingly important during the late summer months when parents begin trying to get children back into their usual sleep routines in preparation for the beginning of school in the fall. No matter if your child is going back to school in the coming months or not, you may be able to benefit from tips aimed at helping your children get and stay asleep.
The amount of sleep that children and adults need decreases as we age. A newborn baby sleeps 15-18 hours per day, but this number begins to decrease slightly by 4 months. Toddlers rely on 12-14 hours of sleep, reflected in a good night’s rest in addition to a nap during the day. Preschoolers thrive on 10-12 hours of sleep per day, and by the time kids enter elementary school through age 12, they should be getting around 10-11 hours of sleep per night. From age 12 onwards, we need about 8-9 hours of sleep per night to function at our highest capacity. These numbers are general guidelines; of course, some children may need more or slightly less sleep than their peers based on a variety of factors.
Why is sleep so vital for children? Sleep plays a huge part in our physical and mental wellbeing. Sleep is crucial for our development from the day we are born. Specific to children, sleep is vital because growth hormones function at their highest levels overnight. Have you ever experienced your child waking up with growing pains? That’s because they’re getting some great restorative sleep that’s allowing them to grow! In addition to growth, sleep boosts the immune system, which is especially important in school settings where germs are rampant. Sleep also helps keep cholesterol, blood glucose levels, and cortisol in check, contributing to a decreased risk of diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
If your child struggles with sleep, you’re probably looking for some hands-on skills you can apply to help your little one get to sleep. Here are some helpful tips and tricks:
Setting a Bedtime Routine
Children thrive on routines, and bedtime is no exception. In general, try to keep your child’s bedtime standard throughout the week (and through the summer when they’re off school). Ideally, children should aim to get to sleep between 7 and 9 pm from age 1 on. Maintaining a bedtime is important, and maintaining a set wake time is equally important. Kids likely get up around the same time each day for school, but enforcing the same wake time during the weekends can help train children to anticipate bed and wake time. Try to follow the same bedtime routine as well. Children may begin to associate bath time with bedtime if bedtime closely follows the bath each night. Set up your personal routine and stick to it!
Key to a good night’s sleep is a peaceful and comfortable environment. Make sure that bedding is comfortable and replaced regularly to cut down on allergens and bacteria in the bed. Many infants, toddlers, and school-aged children become attached to a stuffed animal, blanket, or comfort item. Making sure that this item is available to the child can help them get to sleep and feel more secure specifically when traveling or in a new environment. Children may also benefit from a humidifier and/or a sound machine to help keep the environment comfortable and conducive to sleep.
Bedtime stories may be a piece of the child’s bedtime routine that you choose to implement. Reading a story together can promote bonding between caregiver and child and help engage their minds one last time for the day before they drift off to sleep.
If your child is struggling with sleep, try the tips above to help them get and stay to sleep throughout the night. Implementing and sticking to a bedtime routine is one of the best first steps you can take to helping your child achieve the appropriate quantity and quality of sleep he or she needs to grow and function as best they can.