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Developing Good Sleep Hygiene
By: Wellness Committee Co-Chair Punita Patel
“It’s time for bed!”
How many times have you had to utter those words? Parents know the importance of sleep in the development and growth of a child. Sleep-deprived children have more trouble paying attention, more behavioral issues, and are more likely to be overweight (1).
According to the National Sleep Foundation, kids between the ages of 6 and 13 need 9-11 hours of sleep every night. So, in the age of competitive sports, smart phones, YouTube, video games and homework, how can we ensure that our kids are getting the recommended amount of daily sleep? Kenneth Schuster, a clinical neuropsychologist from the Learning and Development Center, says the answer is “good sleep hygiene.”
Develop a Sleep Routine
Start by developing a sleep routine that your child enjoys close to or in the bedroom that begins near the same time nightly and lasts approximately 30 minutes. This could be anything from a relaxing bath, reading an interesting book, or playing a quiet game. Some children sleep better with a snack before bed. Healthy options include whole-grain cereal with milk, graham crackers or a piece of fruit. Avoid large snacks too close to bed because an overly full stomach can interfere with sleep.
Create a calm environment. The lights should be dim without any screens or electronics, which have been shown to suppress melatonin, a key ingredient to healthy sleep cycles (2). Cool temperatures are soothing, but make sure it isn’t too cold. The surroundings should also be relatively quiet. Low level noise is okay. According to KidsHealth, this should be done approximately one hour prior to bedtime. Try to stick to your routine even on weekends as much as possible.
Set a Wake-Up Time
Good sleep hygiene also includes a consistent wake-up time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends trying to wake your child up near the same time every day (within an hour) to make falling asleep easier.
“And, one more thing…”
Yes, our kids will push this one to the limit. Do your best to plan ahead for these requests by making them part of the bedtime routine. Once your child is in bed, she has to stay in bed! Of course, not all kids listen to everything we say. If she gets up, simply take her by the hand and walk her back to bed. Don’t give in!
Lastly, if despite your best efforts your child continues to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, or persistent nightmares or night terrors, they might have a genuine sleep disorder. Also, excess snoring and wheezing can indicate a respiratory disorder. Talk to your pediatrician to see if your child might need further evaluation if notice any of these issues (3).
For More Information
Check out these resources from Sleep Help.
9 Ways to Make A Child’s Bedtime Easy by Dan Brennan, MD
The impact of light from computer monitors on melatonin levels in college students by Figueiro MG, Wood B, Plitnick B, and Rea MS.
10 Tips to get your kids to Sleep by Healthline
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