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10 Ways to Improve Your Child’s Sleep

Tips from World Sleep Society

Sleep. How can a parent help a child sleep better? First, by knowing that sleep is one of the most significant contributors to your child’s physical and mental health. Sleep is important. As parents, the primary point of action we can take is setting up good sleep practices, including providing an adequate opportunity for sleep as well as an environment conducive to good sleep quality and safety.

Liborio Parrino, MD, Associate Professor of Neurology at Parma University, Italy and chair of the 2020 World Sleep Day Committee says, “Good sleep habits can cause good sleep quality. And studies have shown quality of sleep is even more important that quantity of sleep. Sleep practices help children associate certain activities, such as a bedtime routine, and environments, like the child’s bedroom, with sleep.”

Judith Owens, MD, MPH, Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School and President of the International Pediatric Sleep Association (IPSA) adds, “The importance of sleep to children’s development, health and well-being cannot be underestimated, and healthy sleep habits that help families across all cultures to support and encourage optimal sleep duration and timing are critical to achieving these goals.”

To aid parents and caregivers in this pursuit, World Sleep Society created what they call the “10 Commandments of Sleep Hygiene for Children.” Amy R. Wolfson, PhD has been studying sleep for over 30 years, specifically child and adolescent sleep. Her research found that adolescents as young as age 11 report daytime sleepiness and difficulties getting through the day. Be sure your child is practicing good sleep habits by following these 10 Tips for Better Sleep in Children from World Sleep Society.

1. Make sure your child gets enough sleep by setting an age-appropriate bedtime and waketime.
Pediatric sleep physicians and researchers suggest a bedtime that’s preferably before 9:00pm (or 21:00 hours). To know the appropriate number of hours per age, refer to the table of recommended hours included from World Sleep Society.

2. Keep a consistent bedtime and waketime on weekdays and weekends.
As grating as it can be when your little one wakes up bright and early on a Saturday, research suggests changing sleep and wake times every weekend can interfere with natural circadian rhythms in both children and adults. Sticking with the same sleep and waketime every day of the week will improve sleep health.

3. Establish a consistent bedtime routine and provide comfortable clothes in bed, including strong absorbing diapers for infants.
Along with an established bedtime routine (think healthy snack, pajamas, stories in bed), it’s best to find a comfortable sleep temperature and make sure the child’s bedroom is well ventilated. (Tip: Many thermostats can be set to automatically drop a few degrees at a scheduled time every night.)

4. Encourage your child to fall asleep independently.
As most parents of babies and toddlers can attest, this is easier said than done. But the more independently a child can fall asleep, the better (and earlier) his/her sleep health will improve.

5. Avoid bright lights at bedtime and during the night and increase light exposure in the morning.
Blocking out distracting noises and eliminating as much light as possible will aid in falling asleep, but don’t forget the importance of light exposure in the morning. This keeps natural sleep/wake rhythms in sync.

6. Keep all electronics, including televisions, computers, and cell phones, out of the bedroom, and limit use of electronics before bedtime.
Electronics in the bedroom distract from sleep. Experts agree, falling asleep in front of the television is on the “poor sleep health” list. Additionally, children (and adults) could begin to associate the bedroom with stress. It’s best to avoid any electronics in the bedroom.

7. Maintain a regular daily schedule, including consistent mealtimes.
Consistent daily schedules may be more difficult with fluctuating extra-curricular activities, but research shows the more consistent daytime, the less stress at bedtime, resulting in better sleep. Monica Roosa Ordway, PhD, APRN, PPCNP-BC, an Associate Professor at Yale University, School of Nursing studies stress and sleep in infants and toddlers. “More results are coming in and have not been published yet, but the preliminary data on associations between sleep and stress response are promising,” she states.

8. Have an age-appropriate nap schedule.
To reach the recommended number of hours of sleep by age (table included), fill in the remaining hours with naps during the day. The total number of hours of night-sleep and nap-sleep should reach the recommended amount.

9. Ensure plenty of exercise and time spent outdoors during the day.
For the best sleep, experts advise that everyone of every age exercise regularly. Though keep in mind that exercise right before bed may interfere with sleep. Get those kids outdoors and active! It will help them sleep later.

10. Eliminate foods and beverages containing caffeine, including many sodas, coffee, and tea.
Sleep experts find the most promising sleep in children when caffeinated foods and beverages are eliminated completely. But if your child consumes caffeine, set a cut-off time when it’s “too late” for them to have it. In adults, World Sleep Society suggests avoiding caffeine six hours or more before bedtime.

Following the guidelines for better sleep in children can help prevent short sleep duration, fragmentation of sleep and sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation has been linked to a myriad of health issues ranging from mental health disorders to cardiovascular disease.

To celebrate healthy sleep and help others learn about sleep’s importance in children and adults, World Sleep Society is hosting an annual awareness day–World Sleep Day–on March 13, 2020. Let’s stop dreading bedtime and start celebrating a healthy sleep schedule at any age!

TABLE OF RECOMMENDED SLEEP AMOUNTS
Created by World Sleep Society

AGE                       SLEEP NEED

3-12 months —   14 to15 hours

1-3 years —        12 to14 hours

3-5 years —      11 to 13 hours

6-12 years —     10 to 11 hours

12-18 years —   8.5 to 9.5 hours

This content has been created in conjunction with World Sleep Day® on March 13, 2020 with the slogan, ‘Better Sleep, Better Life, Better Planet.’ Participate to facilitate sleep health around the globe. Worldsleepday.org | #WorldSleepDay

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