Sleep is one of the most important activities in your child’s day but it is often overlooked as such. It is as essential as food, water, and safety and vital for adequate physical and cognitive development.
How much sleep does your child need? Often more than we typically expect, school-age children need 10-12 hours, with younger children needing the most, and adolescents needing 9-10 hours of sleep per night to function optimally. If your child is not getting this on a regular basis, they can become sleep-deprived. When this is prolonged, a number of problematic issues can arise, including problems focusing, mood dysregulation, and risk for falling behind in school.
How do you know if your child is sleep-deprived? Some of the signs include:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness (e.g., falling asleep in the car, wanting to take naps)
- Needing to drag your child out of bed in the morning
- Waking up irritable and unrested
- Problems falling asleep at night (more than 30 minutes)
- Sudden change in emotions or behavior
Here are some tips to help your child sleep and for your entire family to get the rest they need:
- Dim the lights: Our sleep cycle is regulated by light so try turning off or dimming lights around the house 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Avoid the “second wind:” Tune into your child in order to find the time when they begin to slow down and become tired. If this opportunity passes, children may become more hyperactive and difficult to settle.
- Routine is key. Keep it simple and short (less than 30 minutes)
- Oftentimes children will need help settling down. When other strategies have not worked, you may want to talk to your pediatrician about Melatonin, an over-the-counter supplement.
- And finally, make bedtime a time in which to look forward. Use it as an opportunity to unwind from the day and bond with your child.
If you suspect that your child may not be getting enough sleep, and your attempts to alter the problem have not helped, talk with your doctor or schedule an appointment with one of our behaviorally-trained social workers and experts.