Now that school is back in session, it is more important than ever to be sure your child gets adequate rest. This starts with making sure that bedtime is consistent and “routine” with the same reassuring schedule followed each night. This helps kids feel safe and secure and makes it more likely that their focus and concentration in school the next day translates to successful academic performance.
Sleep deprivation can lead to irritability, headache, obesity, problems with concentration, mood disorder, behavior disruption, daytime sleepiness, weakened immune function and higher susceptibility to illness.
Taking a look at your child’s school schedule can help predict what time he or she needs to go to bed. Moving bedtimes to an earlier time for school requires some planning. For example, a 10pm summer bedtime will not automatically change to 8pm overnight once school starts. Bedtimes should be transitioned gradually by 20-30 minutes earlier per week until the desired bedtime is reached.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following guidelines for a child’s total sleep needs per twenty-four hour period(including naps).
Infants(4mo-12 mo) 12-17 hours
Toddler (12-24 mo) 11-14 hours
Preschool (3-5 yr)10-13 hr
Elementary and Middle School(6-12 yr) 9-12 hrs
Teens(13-18yr) 7-10 hr
Children need to play hard with their friends during the daytime, preferably outside. Screen time with tablets, TV, phone or anything that emits a blue light needs to be limited, especially within 30 minutes of desired bedtime. A predictable routine of bath/ shower/ story-time then bedtime with a special stuffed animal or security blanket(for toddlers and older) improves a child’s ability to fall asleep and have sustained high quality sleep. Infants also enjoy books at bedtime. An added bonus to special family bonding time is that this helps with language development. Infants should be placed to sleep alone on the back on a firm surface like a crib or bassinet. Humans, and other mammals, tend to sleep better in a quiet, dark, cool environment, so preparing the child’s sleep space is important. It is recommended that the bedtime routine of tucking in be limited to 30 min or less . This prevents the development of “bedtime resistance” in preschoolers and the asking for ” one more story or cup of water”. Infants and toddlers should not be put to bed with a bottle of formula, juice or milk because this has been linked with tooth decay as well as an association babies look for again as a “transition” to return to sleep after waking in the middle of the night. Feeding functions as a reward for waking up and ensures babies will continue this pattern of disrupted sleep.
Adequate sleep ensures happier healthier kids and better school performance. If you suspect your child has a problem with sleep, or just need some assistance finding the right routine, please mention it to your child’s Oakbrook Pediatrics pediatrician or nurse practitioner.