You might take a few deep breaths before telling your kids that it’s time to go to bed. It really is a process. You know there’s going to be whining and begging to stay up for just one more commercial break. But you know that they need to get some rest – and for good reason.
A good night’s sleep for kids has been proven to reduce the risk of childhood obesity. One study found that kids who had no bedtime routine at age nine had shorter self-reported sleep duration and higher BMI at age 15, when compared to those children with age-appropriate bedtimes.
An article from Sleep.org addresses the notion that a late bedtime isn't necessarily going to result in the child sleeping later in the morning — it will likely just result in a cranky child, particularly if this isn’t part of their regular routine. Having an age-appropriate bedtime and sufficient sleep may lead to a healthier and happier teen.
Here is what time your little one should go to bed depending on their age, as suggested by the National Sleep Foundation. Keep in mind that there is no magic number and that sleep patterns vary from person to person.
Newborns (up to three months): 10.5 to 18 hours of sleep a day. Newborns have an irregular sleep and wake pattern. In order to develop a routine with them, place them in the crib when you notice that they’re drowsy, rather than already sleeping. That way, they associate the crib with sleep.
Infants (four to 11 months): 9 to 12 hours of sleep during the night. The National Sleep Foundation suggests developing regular daytime and bedtime schedules in infants. At this age, the infant might experience separation anxiety when placed in a separate bed. Make sure to create a sleep-friendly environment with stuffed animals, soft sheets, and dark shades that encourages comfortable rest.
Toddlers (one to two): 11 to 14 hours of sleep within a 24 hour period. This includes naps throughout the day. At this age, toddlers may experience nighttime awakenings or poor sleep. When this occurs, encourage the use of a security object such as a stuffed animal or blanket to help them feel safe in their own bed.
Preschoolers (three to five): 11 to 13 hours of sleep per night. At this age, a consistent bedtime is key. That means making sure the preschooler maintains the same bedtime routine in the same room every night.
School-age (six to 13): 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night. Getting enough sleep is important for a school-age child who may be participating in more activities during the day. But this is also the age where the child becomes enamoured with TV, sugar, and caffeine products. The National Sleep Foundation says that watching TV close to bedtime has been associated with resistance, difficulty falling asleep, anxiety around sleep, and sleeping fewer hours.
How to make sure your kids get a good night’s sleep:
Regular bedtime routine
A regular bedtime routine is established by the parent. You know what works best and what doesn’t. A common routine may be to turn the TV off, then have your child brush their teeth, brush their hair, and go to the toilet. Then you might sit with them in bed and read a bedtime story or have a quiet chat. Say goodnight and turn the lights off. Whatever the process, it should be a regular routine each night, including the weekends.
Turn off electronics before bed
Reducing screen time before bed is especially important for children. Research shows that light from the television, phone, or computer screens can interfere with the production of melatonin, which we know is important for a good night’s sleep. There should be some time and separation between turning the TV off and hopping into bed. Making the bedroom a screen-free zone is a good idea if your child is having difficulty falling asleep.
Avoid sugar late in the day
Of course, we know that sugar and caffeine can turn our kids into crazed little monsters who have more energy than the Tasmanian Devil. When it comes to dessert (because we all have a dessert stomach) opt for fresh fruit with a little bit of honey or dark chocolate-dipped strawberries. Possibly try introducing herbal tea to help them focus on calming down rather than going straight to bed after dinner.
Reduce focus on sleep
When it comes to a child's bedtime, shift the focus to relaxing rather than going to sleep. Try some good night yoga for little ones to help them focus on calming down rather than going straight to bed.
Create a cozy sleep environment
Of course, you’ll want a soft and comfortable mattress to get your child excited to sleep in their own bed. Add fluffy pillows, stuffed animals, and soft sheets to the bed area. Keep their room a little cooler as it helps promote better sleep. A quiet, cool, and dark bedroom is the recipe for a good night’s sleep.