Children need to get plenty of sleep so that they can function properly. Rest is essential for their growth, development, health, and more. The responsibility of parents is to ensure that their kids get enough shut-eye on a daily basis. If you are a parent, you need to be aware of the importance of sleep in child development and focus on helping your kids establish a healthy routine and good habits. However, the sleep needs of children vary, depending on their age. Infants and preschoolers don’t have the same needs. If you want to help your kids stay healthy, you need to know how much rest they need, learn how to create a healthy environment that stimulates sleep, and more. All in all, no matter the age of your kids, benefits of sleep for child are numerous and it is your responsibility as a parent to ensure they get plenty of rest.
Infants and Sleep – Things You Need to Know
In general, newborns need the most shut-eye, but they sleep in short segments. As they get older, the amount of rest that they need slowly decreases. Newborns usually sleep about 8 or 9 hours during the day and about as much during the night, but their sleep segments usually don’t last more than a couple of hours. On the other hand, when a child is two years old, it needs around 10 to 11 hours of shut-eye at night and only 2 hours in the daytime. Here are the sleep requirements of infants:
|3 months||15 hours|
|6 months||14 hours|
|1 year||14 hours|
|2 years||13 hours|
You need to keep in mind that babies can’t establish their own waking and sleeping patterns. If you want to help your infant fall asleep, it is an excellent idea to establish a bedtime routine. However, it is important to note that you shouldn’t let your baby fall asleep in your arms as he or she may get used to it and expect to be in your arms to be able to drift off to dreamland. Developing a routine can sometimes require patience and persistence, but it is worth it. Your routine should include reading books, bath, rocking, playing soft music, and tucking your baby into bed. Recognizing the signs of sleep readiness is also essential. If you notice your baby yawning, fussing, rubbing eyes or looking away, it means that it is time for sleep.
Useful Tips to Keep in Mind Regarding Sleep and Health of Your Infant
If you want your baby to stay safe and get plenty of rest, you need to remember the following things:
- Back sleeping is the safest position – This position is the safest as it reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS. Side sleeping and stomach sleeping come with a higher risk of SIDS compared to back sleeping position.
- Avoid smoking – It is crucial to keep in mind that smoking is also a risk for SIDS. You shouldn’t smoke during pregnancy or after birth.
- Avoid soft surfaces – Pillows, stuffed toys, comforters and bumper pads in a baby’s bassinet or crib are not a good idea as they can lead to strangulation, suffocation, or SIDS.
- Prevent overheating – It is the best idea to keep your child lightly clothed, and make sure that the room temperature is at a comfortable level. Don’t use too many blankets, and touch the infant’s skin to ensure it is not hot to the touch.
- Always use a firm mattress and a tightly fitted sheet – Firmer surfaces are much better for the health and well-being of your child. Use firm mattresses instead of soft models. Also, make sure that it meets the current safety standards.
- Be careful where your child naps – Keep in mind that you shouldn’t use car seats, infant carriers, strollers, and infant swings for daily naps as they can result in suffocation or the obstruction of a baby’s airway.
- Breastfeeding – The AAP recommends that mothers should breastfeed their infants for at least six months.
What Should You Know about Toddlers and Sleep?
Most toddlers need to get between 12 and 14 hours of sleep daily. They can sleep 12-14 hours during the night, or they can sleep less than that but take a nap during the day. The important thing is to ensure they get at least 12 hours of shut-eye during a 24-hour period. Of course, some things can disrupt your child’s sleep patterns, such as routine changes, illnesses, anxiety, and other stressful events. Even switching from a crib to a bed can affect the sleep duration of your kid.
Toddlers usually don’t look forward to sleeping, as most of them would want to do other, fun things instead. As a parent, you can expect to face certain problems, such as bedtime resistance – when a child refuses to go to bed, troubles returning to sleep, and night awakenings. Sometimes, toddlers can’t get enough quality rest because of the nightmares and fears, but it is all normal. However, some situations may require contacting a doctor. For example, if you notice that your kid has unusual nighttime behaviors and significant fears, it may be a wise idea to get in touch with a doctor. The same applies if you notice an unexpected number of awakenings, or if you realize that your kid snores, has troubles breathing, or makes noise when breathing.
How to Help Your Toddler Sleep Better?
If you want to know how to get your toddler to sleep, and improve the rest quality and duration, the following things can help you:
- Develop a pre-bedtime routine – If you want your toddler to sleep better, establishing a routine will help you. This routine should include calm and relaxing activities that will prepare your kid for sleep. Some of the things that you should include into the routine are brushing teeth, taking a bath, putting on PJs, reading a bedtime story, dimming the lights, and whatever else comes to mind, as all of these things will help your kid wind down.
- Create a sleep-supportive environment – It is essential that your kid’s bedroom supports and stimulates sleep. It should be dark, quiet, and cool. Of course, if your child is afraid of the dark, you can use nightlights or leave the doors open and the hallway lights turned on. It is also a good idea to play soft and soothing music. Your child’s bedroom shouldn’t have a TV, and you should also make sure that smartphones, iPads, and similar devices are not allowed. The blue light that they emit can disrupt kid’s sleep patterns as they can over-stimulate the child. All in all, this room should be used for resting and sleeping.
- Limit food and drink intake – Overstuffing your kid with food in the evening is not a good idea as it can contribute to troubles sleeping. Eating a light meal one or two hours before the bed is a much better option. Avoid heavy meals in the evening, and always check the labels to make sure that clear beverages that your kid consumes don’t contain caffeine
- Put your child to bed while sleepy – If you want your children to learn how to fall asleep easy and fast on their own, you should put them to bed while they are drowsy but awake. That way, they will get used to sleeping where they are supposed to and will be able to return to sleep again easily if they wake up during the night
Preschoolers and Sleep – Basic Things You Should Know
If you are wondering how much sleep does a 4 year old need, the answer is between 11 and 13 hours, including night sleep and daytime naps, so that they can be healthy and grow strong. It is crucial for them to develop healthy and consistent sleep habits. Poor habits can contribute to frequent awakenings during the night and troubles falling asleep.
Some of the sleep problems that you can expect your child to face are nightmares and nighttime fears, but there is no need to worry as they are simply a normal part of the development. Sleepwalking also peaks in this age group. If you want to help your child with nighttime fears, you can place certain items near his or her bed for these times, such as a favorite stuffed toy, a CD player, a flashlight or similar items, and make sure your kid can get to them in the middle of the night. These things will help your child feel safe during the night. A favorite and soft blanket will also do the trick. You should avoid lying down next to your kid and wait for them to fall asleep. Although it may seem like a good idea, it won’t help them in the long run. Giving reassurance is good, but keep in mind that children need to get used to sleeping independently.
You can expect napping to begin trailing off with age as children need daytime naps less and less. However, preschoolers can still benefit a lot from naps, even very short ones. Kids at this age are simply very active as they run around, play, explore their surroundings and more, and they need rest to recover a bit and slow down. If you want to encourage napping, you can set an afternoon routine and stick to it. Your children will sometimes sleep during this period, and sometimes they won’t, but you need to be persistent. If they don’t fall asleep, they will at least enjoy some relaxing time.
If you want to help them sleep better, you should develop a pre-sleep routine, set limits to food and drink intake, make sure their bedroom stimulates sleep, and prevent them from using computers and watching TV close to bedtime. Playing relaxing music, tucking your child into bed, and avoiding stimulants near bedtime will also help.
Sleep and School-Aged Children – What Should You Know?
School age sleep needs are between 10 and 11 hours of shut-eye during the night. However, it is not always easy because of the obligations that they have. They need to do their homework regularly, worry about other school tasks, do different evening activities, and go to bed later than when they were younger. Because of all these things, getting 11 hours of sleep can sometimes be impossible. They can also encounter various sleep problems, such as nighttime fears, sleepwalking, snoring, teeth grinding, noisy breathing, and more, but don’t worry as these issues are quite common.
You need to help your kids get enough quality sleep as they need to be well-rested. If they are sleep-deprived, their school performance will suffer, and they will have troubles concentrating. Their attention and problem-solving skills can also be impacted by the lack of sleep, and they can also be quite moody. If you want them to behave well, be happy and healthy, and able to concentrate properly, you need to ensure they sleep well.
What Can You Do to Help?
If you notice that your kids lack rest, here is what you can do to ensure they get enough quality shut-eye:
- Create a bedtime routine – Having a bedtime routine is essential for kids of all ages. It can help school-aged children relax and wind down a bit, and it should include putting on PJs, taking a bath, brushing teeth, reading a book, and turning off the lights when the time for bed comes. Also, they should go to sleep and wake up at roughly the same time every day, even on weekends, as it will help them develop healthy habits.
- Help them relax in the evening – When we grow up, we forget that school can be very stressful. Many adults deal with stress on a daily basis and for them, going to school is easy and effortless compared to going to work and dealing with other obligations that are a normal part of the life of adults. However, for kids, going to school and doing homework can be stressful as they often need to worry about their performance and results. As a consequence of worrying during the day, they can have bad dreams or restless nights. As a parent, you need to help them relax by calming them down, reading interesting stories, talking about their day, and playing music for sleep.
- Help them build healthy sleep habits – Having good sleep habits is essential for getting enough quality rest. Your kids should avoid using tablets, computers, and smartphones at least an hour before bedtime, and they shouldn’t consume caffeinated beverages before sleep. They should also be active during the day and get plenty of natural light so that they can sleep better at night. Additionally, they need to avoid stimulating activities as engaging in them can cause sleep issues.
Sleep and Teenagers – Basic Info and Causes of Sleep Deprivation
Many teenagers love labeling themselves night owls, and they take pride in staying up late. However, this habit can have an adverse impact on their health and well-being. Teenagers need to get between 8 and 10 hours of shut-eye each night, and if they stay up late and need to get up early for school, it is impossible to get the amount of rest that they need. Lacking rest often doesn’t sound like a big deal for them but it is, especially if it becomes chronic. When they are deprived of sleep, teenagers tend to struggle in school, and they have troubles with concentration, memory, and motivation. As a result, their academic performance can suffer as they will get bad grades. Also, they can feel moody, depressed, and they are at a higher risk of being involved in a vehicular crash and other incidents. When they don’t sleep enough, the decision-making skills of teenagers are affected, physical reflexes are slower, and they are more prone to risk-taking behavior.
Some of the most common causes of sleep deprivation in teenagers include:
- Early classes – Many teenagers tend to stay up late, which makes it difficult to be well-rested for 7 AM classes. Classes simply start very early, and most kids need to get up around 5 AM so that they can make it to school on time.
- After-school schedule – Not only teenagers need to travel to school and back every day, but they also have many after-school obligations to take care of. For example, they need to do their homework so that their academic performance doesn’t suffer. Most of them also play some sports and have different social commitments, as they need to spend time with their friends. Some teenagers also have a part-time job, and when you take into account all these responsibilities, it is almost impossible to get at least 8 hours of sleep.
- Biological shifts – After puberty, the teenager’s internal clock shifts forward by about 2 hours, which makes them sleepier 2 hours later. It also means that they should wake up 2 hours later in the morning, but they don’t have the luxury to do so as school starts early. Over time, they can become chronically sleep-deprived.
- Device use – Smartphones, tablets, computers, and other devices can contribute to sleep disruptions if they are used before bedtime. Lights that they emit affect the production of melatonin, which is a brain chemical responsible for sleep. That’s why teenagers shouldn’t use these devices at least an hour before going to sleep.
Renata is an economist who has always had a passion for writing. She is a dog lover, Netflix addict and a sleepaholic. When she is not busy doing sleep research, she spends her time reading books, hiking and playing video games.