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Teach Your Child Proper Sleep Habits

Sleep is vital to health. Children need to have the right amount and quality of sleep to function at their best, mentally and physically.

Parenthood brings special challenges, and bedtime can be one of them. Making sure your child has regular sleep habits will make it easier for Mom and Dad to get a good night’s rest too!

Children’s sleep needs and habits change as they grow. Studies show that many children (and adults) do not get enough rest to maintain basic health and energy levels. Starting good sleep habits early is important. It is easier to form a good habit than break an undesirable one.

These general sleeping tips for parents are from the National Sleep Foundation:

  • Ease your child into a routine with consistent naptimes and bedtimes.
  • Keep sleep areas cool, dim and without outside stimuli such as toys, television, and noise.
  • Develop a set of bedtime rituals that work for your family.
  • Avoid caffeine and sugary foods that may interfere with sleep.
  • Have a specific cutoff time for activities that stimulate.
  • Put children to sleep when they are drowsy, not asleep. They need to be able to fall asleep on their own.


Newborns sleep between 10.5 and 18 hours a day. Waking is linked with the need to eat. As your newborn grows, he will sleep for increasingly longer periods, but when very young, babies may sleep for only 30 minutes to 2 hours at a time.

Help your baby to fall asleep on his own by waiting till he is very drowsy and laying him down. If you soothe him to sleep, he will not be able to drift off on his own. This may cause problems later. It can be necessary at times, however, to stay with your child if they are sick or when they are very fearful.

If your baby seems to sleep a lot during the day, it is okay to keep him up longer during the day and gradually shift to a nighttime schedule.

Older babies should start to sleep through the night at about 6 to 9 months. Hopefully by this time they are able to soothe themselves to sleep.

Toddlers sleep between 12 and 14 hours per day. By 18 months most take only one 1 to 3 hour nap during the day. Try to keep from having naptime too close to bedtime.

Toddlers and older preschoolers may resist bedtime, or wake during the night. It is quite common to have nightmares or other sleep disturbances. A preschooler’s drive for autonomy may also cause resistance.

Keeping the same time for bedtime and night time rituals is extremely important. A bedtime of 8 or 9 o’clock is probably late enough. Distracting noises, such as television and other sounds, should be kept to a minimum.

If your baby or young child has great difficulty settling or staying asleep, ask your pediatrician for advice.

Main points to address:

  • Individual sleep needs vary.
  • Strive for regular nap and bedtimes.
  • Put babies and young children down for sleep when drowsy, not asleep.
  • Nightmares and night fears are common.

Grades K-6th

Children ages 5 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep. Most 5 and 6 year olds no longer nap. Because children are busy with school and outside activities as well as computers, video games and television, they need to adhere to a regular bedtime and routine.

Sleep disorders are common at this age. Eliminating stimulating activities, especially television and video games before bed may decrease insomnia and sleep resistance, as well as nightmare and night terrors.

Children this age still enjoy and benefit from a routine that may include reading a story or poem, singing a song together or praying. Being “tucked in” remains important- even to older children. Having comfortable sleep clothes and a cool (but not cold) room facilitates sleep. A warm (not hot) bath also can help your child wind down.

Toys should not be taken to bed. A single security item, such as a blanket or stuffed animal may be helpful. A night light may provide a feeling of security.

Teach your child the value of sleep. Tell her that a good night’s rest will give her the energy she needs for play the next day. Make bedtime a pleasant, but not prolonged part of your child’s day. Soft music or sounds of nature such as falling rain or soft ocean waves may help your child drift off. Aromatic oils such as lavender may also relax your youngster. You can buy a diffuser for this purpose.

If your child frequently has difficulty falling or staying asleep, or wets the bed, snores loudly, has extremely restless legs, or grinds their teeth at night, get help as soon as you notice, as these may signal a medical problem.

Main points to address:

  • Maintain a consistent bedtime and routine.
  • Have a cutoff time for television, video games and stimulating activities. Keep TVs and computers out of the bedroom.
  • Use soft music or aromatic oils to ease your child into sleep.
  • Get help from you pediatrician for persistent bedtime or night time problems.

Resources that can help you in your venture include:

Posted in Health.

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