Healthy Sleep Habits for Children
Why is sleep important for children?
Sleep plays a vital role in the development of children. Adequate sleep quality has been associated with optimal growth, memory, learning, behavior and immunity. Establishing healthy sleep habits early on helps prevent children's long-term sleep problems.
Sleep duration varies by age
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine provides general guidelines for adequate sleep in children of all ages. However, some children may have different sleep requirements.
- Infants age 4 months to 1 year should sleep 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours (including naps).
- Children 1 to 2 years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours (including naps).
- Children 3 to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps).
- Children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep 9 to 12 hours per 24 hours.
- Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours per 24 hours.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine did not include any recommendations for infants younger than 4 months due to limited data on duration and sleep patterns in children this young.
Set your child up for future success: Tips for bedtime
Creating healthy sleep habits should be a family priority. Turn bedtime into a bonding experience. Make it easy for your child to develop healthy sleep habits by setting up age-appropriate expectations that will lead to success from an early age.
Bedtime Tips for Infants
About 3500 infants in the U.S. die every year from sleep-related infant deaths. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following measures in order to decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep related infant deaths.
- Infants should sleep on their backs until their first year of life. This includes at nighttime and for naps.
- Use a firm sleep surface.
- Infants should sleep in the parent’s room, on a separate surface, for at least the first 6 months to 1 year of life. Sleeping on a separate surface decreases the risk of SIDS by much as 50%, therefore, co-sleeping is discouraged.
- Keep soft objects out of your child's crib. Soft objects such as pillows, toys and comforters should not be allowed on a sleep surface due the risk of head entrapment, suffocation or SIDS.
- Consider giving a pacifier during sleep periods. Although the mechanism is not clearly elucidated, pacifiers have been shown to have protective effects against SIDS.
- Smoke exposure before and after birth should be avoided.
Bedtime Tips for Toddlers, School-Aged Children and Adolescents
- Create a consistent sleep schedule. Keep regular sleep and wake times that are appropriate for school nights and on weekends. Avoid naps for children ages 5 and older.
- Sleep environment should be conducive to sleep. Bright lights and screen time should stop an hour before bedtime. Electronic devices that should be eliminated include TV, tablet, cell phone etc. The bedroom should be dark and quiet. Dimmed lights, night lights and lamps are appropriate choices if your child is afraid of the dark. Keep the room cool (68-72 degrees Fahrenheit) or a temperature that is comfortable for your children.
- Set up a bedtime routine. Your child should have the same routine every night. Start a quiet time such as reading a book or listening to calm/soothing music 30-60 minutes before bedtime. Screen time should not be considered as part of quiet time. An example of a bedtime routine for school-aged children and above may include bath or shower, brushing teeth, changing into pajamas, reading or doing other calm activities and getting into bed.
- Enforce boundaries. It is part of a child’s nature to want to see how far they can go. If this happens, remember you are not alone. Many parents struggle with setting bedtime boundaries with their children. You may be tempted to give in when your child acts out. By giving in, you will teach your child that they can push for later bedtimes, co-sleeping, or any other undesirable sleep behaviors. Consistency is key. Keep a calm demeanor and get them involved in their bedtime routine in order for them to feel in control of what happens at bedtime without feeling they have to test your boundaries. Examples would be to make them choose what book they want to read or which soft song they can listen to before going to bed. Children appreciate rules and routines that give them a sense of stability in their lives.
Learn to recognize sleep problems.
The most common sleep problems in children include snoring, loud or heavy breathing while sleeping, difficulty falling asleep, nighttime awakenings and mood changes due to lack of quality sleep.
If you think your child may be suffering from one of these sleep problems, talk with a pediatrician at Ochsner Hospital for Children today.