Sleep Tips for Young Children: How to get a good night’s rest
Some say “never wake a sleeping baby” but what if the baby won’t sleep at all? What if they sleep too much? Knowing how much sleep your child needs can be confusing because it seems everyone has an opinion on the topic and there is so much information to sift through about sleep tips.
Keep in mind that what works for some may not work for all. While some of you may be simply exhausted because your child doesn’t sleep enough, other parents may be experiencing worry about children who sleep too much. Some children will naturally fall below the recommended or typical sleep amounts for their age group and can function well on less sleep. Some children may need extra sleep, but it’s something to monitor because that means less awake time to learn and play. You’ll want to check with your pediatrician if your child’s sleep needs are excessively high or low.
If these topics are keeping you up at night and your child too, you are not alone. Sleep is a big topic among parents and it’s important to remember to stick to the facts. Always use reputable sources of information online, books or consult with your doctor rather then using the advice in a mommy’s group, from a friend or family member. Although the latter may be a trusted source, it’s best to check on that advice with a professional to make sure it is sound.
How Much Sleep Do Children Need?
This chart is a general guide to the amount of sleep children need over a 24-hour period, including nighttime sleep and daytime naps.
|Infants (4 to 12 months old)||12-16 hours|
|Toddlers (1 to 2 years old)||11-14 hours|
|Children (3 to 5 years old)||10-13 hours|
|Children (6-12 years)||9-12 hours|
|Teenagers (13-18 years old)||8-10 hours|
Here’s some handy sleep tips that may help your child (and you) get the sleep you need:
Establish a regular sleep pattern
Establishing a regular sleep pattern is important. It will help your child understand when it is time to sleep. Also, your child will have better sleep. Bedtime shouldn’t vary by more than an hour across all days of the week (even weekends) – whether your child has an early start the next morning or not. The same goes for waking time.
A consistent bedtime routine
It is good to have the same routine before bed each night. This will help prepare for sleep. Quiet activities are good, such as reading a book or having a bath or shower. In the half hour before bed, there are some things you want to avoid such as active games, playing outside, TV, internet or mobile phone games. These activities will stimulate the child and make it difficult to fall asleep.
Make sure the bedroom is comfortable
The bedroom should be quiet, comfortable, and dark. Some children like a night light. This is fine. Make sure your child sees the bedroom as a good place to be.
Bed is for sleeping, not entertainment
Devices and games will distract your child and are not good for their sleep. Keep them out of the bedroom. “Needing” to watch a screen to fall asleep is a bad habit. This can easily develop, but you don’t want it to happen.
Some foods can disturb sleep
A high intake of sugary or fatty foods has been linked with more restless sleep. Avoid sugary or high fat snacks before bedtime, as well as large meals. A small healthy savoury snack, one hour before bedtime, would be fine.
Take care with daytime naps
It is normal for young children to nap during the day. As your child gets older, they will need less sleep. This means they will need to nap less. The number and length of naps depends on your child. If your child is not going to sleep at a reasonable time at night, it may be time to shorten or stop daytime napping.
Exercise and time outside
Daily exercise is an important part of healthy living. It also promotes good sleep. Time spent in bright daylight does the same. Outdoor exercise achieves both these things. It’s best for young children to go outside for at least 2 hours throughout the day to get the physical activity they need. However, it is best to steer clear of vigorous activity in the hour before sleep.
Work with your doctor
If your child is sick or isn’t comfortable, their sleep will suffer. Some children suffer from specific sleep problems such as frequent nightmares, snoring or sleep apnoea. It is important that these problems are dealt with. If you think ill health is involved, discuss this with your family doctor.
Specific sleep-related issues in children
The Sleep Health Foundation has a range of helpful fact sheets for children with sleep issues. These include tips on sleep issues for children with ADHD (see ADHD and Sleep in Children) or autism (see Autism in Children and Sleep), as well as more general topics such as bedwetting (see Bedwetting), childhood snoring (see Childhood Snoring and Sleep Apnea) and behavioural problems with settling to sleep (see Behavioural Sleep Problems in School Aged Children).
Sleep is important, not only for your child’s well-being, but yours too! For more information about how we promote children’s well being, check out our programs!