Mom comforting son

As a parent, you know it’s important for your children’s health — and your own mental health — that they get a good night’s sleep. You may still have many questions: How much sleep do kids need? What can you do to help your child sleep better? How can you encourage healthy sleeping habits?

Let’s take a closer look at some ways you can promote good sleep hygiene at home.

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How Much Sleep Do Kids Need?

The hours of recommended sleep depend on a child’s age. As a child gets older, he or she can get by with less sleep. Children in elementary school need about 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. For teens, 8 to 10 hours per night is recommended.

Getting a good night’s sleep prepares your child for a better day, with less moodiness and improved concentration. It also promotes better health overall. Plus, when your child isn’t sleeping, it’s likely you aren’t either. Adults should get at least seven hours per night, and if you’re up with your child, you’ll feel the effects the next day as well.

How Do I Help My Child Sleep?

With early school start times, homework, dinner, sports, and all the other demands on your family, trying to get your kids to bed at a decent hour feels like an uphill battle sometimes. However, the importance of your kids’ sleep schedule can’t be overstated.

Try taking these steps to help your children get to bed at a decent time and fall asleep quickly.

Set a consistent bedtime

Set a bedtime, no matter how old your children are, and stick to it as much as possible. This will likely mean other aspects of the evening have to be scheduled, too. Set time for dinner, sports, homework, chores, and time with friends. This may vary by day of the week, but aim to keep the kids’ sleeping schedule the same or close to the same every day. It is especially important to keep wake times on weekends as close as possible to wake times on weekdays.

Keep to a bedtime routine

Along with your schedule, have a standard bedtime routine, especially for elementary schoolers. Have a snack, bathe, read books, and brush teeth. Whatever your nightly routine, keep it the same to prepare your child for sleep by going through the same steps.

Cut out things that keep your child awake

Studies are finding that light from TVs, tablets, and smartphones reset our body clock and can make it difficult to fall asleep the next day. Set screen-free time an hour or more before bed to help your child fall asleep. Also, avoid caffeine, heavy exercise, sugary foods, and too much liquid before bed.

Create a safe, sleep-friendly space

Make sure your child’s room is dark, quiet, and a comfortable temperature. Include fuzzy, comforting blankets or favorite stuffed animals on the bed.

Set aside time for a nap

Kids are busy, and sometimes 10 hours of sleep a night is hard to get. If your child is tired during the day, encourage him or her to take a 20-minute nap after school. Short naps can provide energy and still allow them to fall asleep at their regular bedtime.

What If My Child Still Has Sleep Difficulties?

If setting up a child’s sleeping schedule or creating an ideal sleeping environment isn’t enough, you may need to talk to an expert. Sleepwalking, night terrors, sleep apnea, and other sleep disorders do occur in children. At times, sleep difficulties can be a signal for other problems that need to be managed to improve sleep quality.

If your child is struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep despite your best efforts, talk to your pediatrician. He or she may recommend that you speak with a sleep specialist about how to treat your child’s sleep disorder.

To schedule an appointment with our specialists in children’s sleep disorders, contact the UPMC PediatricSleep Program at 412-692-5630, option 2.

Sources

Sleep for Kids, Information About Children's Sleep for Parents and Teachers. http://sleepforkids.org/html/sheet.html

National Sleep Foundation, Age Articles. https://www.sleep.org/topic/age/

National Sleep Foundation, How External Lights Affect Your Sleep. https://www.sleep.org/articles/how-lights-affect-sleep/

About Pediatrics

From nutrition to illnesses, from athletics to school, children will face many challenges growing up. Parents often will make important health care decisions for them. We hope to help guide both of you in that journey. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh ranks consistently on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital is a longtime national leader for women and their newborns. We aim to provide the best care for your children, from birth to adulthood and beyond.