Time For Bed – A Parent’s Complete Guide To Healthy Sleep

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Overview

Sleep is more important than one might think. Everyone needs sleep; without it, every single person would be extremely unhealthy or worse – diagnosed clinically insane. Sleep affects the way we look, perform, and feel on a daily basis. 

However, sleep (or the lack of it) affects none more so than children.

A child needs proper sleep for all aspects of their development – from their physical development to their ability to learn. Parents are responsible for developing appropriate sleep habits that set the stage for their child’s health and well being, not just in childhood but for their entire lifetime. 

We understand how stressful it can be when trying to get kids to sleep, most especially young children. That’s why we’ve created this guide to help parents worry less about their child not having a good night’s sleep.

Lights Out: A Parents’ Sleep Guide for Infants to Preschoolers

Frequently, the biggest issue for parents of infants and toddlers is sleep. And that’s no surprise. Young children are still developing good sleeping habits. However, at this age, they require an adequate amount of sleep for healthier development.

sleeping baby

Marc Weissbluth, MD, the author of “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” says that newborns need sleep for brain development. Experts have found that when children do not have an adequate amount of rapid eye movement or REM sleep, they may grow to have a shortened attention span. On top of that, when young ones do not have proper sleep, they release more cortisol, the stress hormone. When that happens, children, especially newborns, will have shorter naps and will wake up more frequently at night. 

Speaking of newborns, caring for little ones is a daunting task, most especially when it comes to sleep. Why? Because, at this age, they have not yet developed what is known as a circadian rhythm, which begins developing at about the sixth week of birth.

For parents, it is vital that you instill proper sleeping habits for your children. Research by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children who do not have good sleeping patterns after six months are found to have more challenges when they grow older. 

Babies sleep many hours within the day. In fact, when they turn two, toddlers are known to sleep more times than they are awake! Parents of active and energetic toddlers may find this hard to believe but studies show that kids roughly spend 40% of their childhood sleeping. However, children sleep for only a few hours at a time, which is challenging for parents. Although being patient and consistent is all it takes for your children to start having a good night’s sleep.

Sleep Chart for Babies:

Age Total Hours of Sleep Total Hours of Sleep at Night Total Hours of Daytime Sleep
Newborn 16 Hours 8 to 9 Hours 8 Hours
1 Month 15.5 Hours 8 to 9 Hours 7 Hours
3 Months 15 Hours 9 to 10 Hours 4 to 5 Hours
6 Months 14 Hours 10 Hours 4 Hours
9 Months 14 Hours 11 Hours 3 Hours
1 Year 14 Hours 11 Hours 3 Hours
2 Years 13 Hours 11 Hours 2 Hours

Helpful Tips:

  • No naps before bedtime – naps are also important for children. However, having naps right before you are supposed to tuck them in for bedtime will only achieve the opposite - instead of feeling tired and drowsy, they’ll instead have enough energy to want to stay up as late as possible.
  • A calming sleeping environment is key – when it comes to sleeping, all of us need to be comfortable. The same goes for babies, they need to be comfortable enough for them to sleep. You may also opt to provide them with a comfort item, such as a pacifier, blanket or toy.
  • Develop a consistent routine – babies thrive on routines. It does not need to be complicated, though. You can start by having sleep time at the same time every night, so your baby instinctively knows that it is time to sleep. Taking a warm bath, singing songs, reading a book, or brushing their teeth, these are activities you can incorporate in a child’s bedtime routine.
  • Playing during the day – playing with your children during their most active times in the day can help them to stay awake for longer periods of time, which promotes a longer sleep at night.
  • Avoid stimulating sights, sounds and activities during bedtime – Keep the lights and sounds low. It is important that babies are calm at night.
  • When sleepy, gently put them into their bed – as soon as your baby starts showing signs of being sleepy or drowsy such as rubbing their eyes, crying, or becoming irritable, place them comfortably and gently into bed. Studies show that babies who are put to bed when still sleepy can sleep better and faster than those who are already asleep when placed on the bed.
  • Don’t respond to their crying immediately – this tip takes patience and courage. As parents, it is difficult to hear your child crying through the night, but this is important, as this teaches them to soothe themselves. Wait for a couple of minutes and see if your child can fall back to sleep by themselves.
  • Be patient – raising a baby is a whole new level of difficulty, especially in the early, crucial stages of their lives. Your baby is still on their way to learning how to sleep properly, which is why parents should always be patient. It will pay off in the end.

Common Problems That Hinder Infants and Toddlers from Sleeping

  • Separation anxiety – Children, oftentimes, can develop separation anxiety. Although it is quite normal, especially, when a toddler sleeps with parents. Kids need constant reassurance throughout the night.
  • Improper distinction between day and night – Because infants do not have circadian rhythm for the first few weeks, it is hard for them to differentiate between day and night. Some babies sleep all day and stay awake all night. You can prevent this by limiting their naps during the day and create a clear distinction between day and night.
  • “I don’t want to go to bed” – This is the phrase every parent knows too well. An infant may want to sleep when you want them to, but toddlers are a different story. Toddlers are busy exploring and learning new things, which is why they resist sleep. When this happens, you, as a parent, need to stay firm with your toddler, but also remember to be kind and gentle.
  • Sleep withdrawals – Every so often, sleeping can get difficult for children. As they grow, they develop motor skills, their teeth start growing, or learn new things. All of these factors can prevent them from sleeping, but it is all completely natural. It is important that you stay within your bedtime routines to help them overcome it.
  • Too much going on at night – It is critical that your child knows that nighttime is for sleeping. However, when you are trying to change their clothes or if you’re trying to feed them, this may cause them to remain fully awake, which leads to difficulties in falling asleep. The same goes for any loud noises and bright lights.

What Happened to Monday? - A Parents Sleep Guide for Grade Schoolers

Not only do infants and babies need sleep, but most especially kids who are ready to go to school. Because school is where teachers grade children based on their performance, sleep (among other important factors) can help them do their best. Sadly, it is also at this age where your kids will encounter major changes regarding their sleeping behaviors. After preschool, your children are introduced to school obligations and more homework, which will inevitably lead to later bedtimes.

child sleeping

For your grade-schoolers, there is a change in their REM sleep compared to when they were infants or toddlers. They spend significantly less time in the REM stage, and spend more time on the N3 stage, which is when we are already in deep sleep. And your busy, school-aged kids need all the deep sleep they can get.

One of the hardest transitions when it comes to sleep for children at this age is at the start of the school year. During the holidays or in the summertime, children have laxed sleeping schedules. However, when the school starts again, this gets disrupted and they are transitioning back to a strict sleeping schedule. And that’s why on Mondays, when classes resume after the weekend, parents the world over are greeted with busier, more frantic mornings and school-aged children announcing that they are simply “not ready” for school.

The lack of sleep or the difficulties in transitioning sleeping schedules can affect your children immensely. It can affect their learning, alertness, and memory. Researchers from the University of Warwick have found that lack of sleep can also cause depression, anxiety, impulsive behavior, and poor cognitive performance, among children. Nevertheless, healthy sleeping is sometimes all it takes for kids to perform better in class.

It goes without saying that proper sleeping habits for your children provides benefits other than learning. Helping them achieve a healthy sleeping habit while they are developing can do them good in the long run.

Helpful Tips:

  • Maintain bedtime routines – your nighttime routines with your kids may not be as involved as when they were younger, but it is important to know that maintaining a routine for bedtime still plays a vital role.
  • The horrors, the bad scares and the thing under the bed - it comes at night and it’s best to avoid it – for adults and older teenagers, a horror movie is a delight. For young children, however, watching a horror film can lead to them having nightmares and disrupt their sleep. So, it is important to avoid horror films or TV shows at all cost.
  • Less screen time – whether we like it or not, we live in the digital age. Most kids nowadays all prefer playing with smartphones or tablets than playing outside. This is not usually a cause for concern, until it is bedtime. Study shows that the light coming from the screen of devices can disrupt the circadian rhythm. So, it is necessary that your child does not have access to gadgets when it is time to sleep.
  • Watch out for caffeine – it is a well-known fact that caffeine can make you stay awake longer and coffee usually has a high amount of caffeine. Although most kids do not drink coffee, caffeine can be found in other drinks, including sodas and energy drinks. So, it is important to limit the amount of caffeine your child is drinking.
  • Sleep-friendly environment – the bedroom of your kid needs to send a clear message: “Time for sleep”. The room needs to be quiet, dark, and cool, which are all necessary for your child to feel comfortable. If they are comfortable, it is only a matter of time before they doze off to sleep.
  • Don’t let them go to bed hungry or too full – letting your child go to bed when they are hungry can cause them to feel uncomfortable when trying to sleep. The same goes when you let them sleep while their stomachs are full. Make sure your child gets a healthy, balanced diet in order for them to sleep well at night, too.
  • Walk your talk – Children learn by example. So, whatever you teach them about the importance of sleep, which means you need to get some healthy sleep as well. It may be challenging, but kids will soon follow what you teach.

Common Problems that Hinder Grade Schoolers from Sleeping

  • Snoring and sleep apnea aren’t only for adults – yes, research shows that kids have a mild form of apnea. Usually caused by obesity, sinus infection, or irregular sized tonsils, these factors cause children to develop breathing difficulties that would lead them to wake up every so often to breathe. If your child does have this sleeping disorder, it would be best to take them to a sleep lab to be diagnosed.
  • Lacks exercise and physical activities – it is common for children to spend their time lounging around the couch and watching TV, especially today. Exercise releases hormones that help induce sleep and relaxation. Encourage your kids to be active in sports or simply give them time to play outside.
  • Anxiety – even children can experience anxiety caused by any number of issues. For example, they can be worried about something bad happening to their families, fires, monsters under the bed, school bullies, and homework, among other things. These may sometimes lead to them not being able to sleep well. You can avoid this by simply talking to your kids about their fears. Clear communication can usually ease a child’s anxiety.
  • Sleepwalking – sleepwalking is a highly common occurrence for children in this age group. It occurs when there is an incomplete sleeping stage transition and can happen during the first few hours after your child sleeps. Although most children can outgrow this, it is still important to be safe. Always make sure that doors in your house are locked and guide your child back to their bed.

Live by Night: A Parents Sleep Guide for Teenagers

When it comes to dealing with teens regarding their sleeping habits, it is first important to know that they need about nine hours of sleep every night to function well during the day. This is because teenagers experience high physical and mental demands, although only a small percentage of teens actually sleep that long during school nights. A lack of sleep could lead to major consequences in their future.

teenager sleeping

There are plenty of things that can hinder teens from sleeping. Two of the major problems is an abundance of homework and projects from school, and trying to have an active social life. Although, the biological sleep pattern changes when kids are in their adolescence. This means that it is natural for them not to feel sleepy at 10 or 11 in the evening. However, almost all teenagers suffer from irregular sleeping behavior weekly.

High school is a crucial time for teens and sleep. Sleep deprivation usually starts at this point of their lives. Without an adequate amount of sleep, teens cannot perform their best. Additionally, sleep deprivation can cause issues like obesity, irritability, anxiety, poor grades, and depression.

Helpful Tips:

  • Routine is good – one of the most overlooked things when it comes to sleep is that it thrives on routine. Encourage your teen to sleep on the same time every night, including on the weekends.
  • Caffeine shouldn’t be their best friend – due to the fact that teens now have more homework and need to be awake in school, they often cling to caffeine. However, discourage them to drink coffee past 4 in the afternoon and to limit their caffeine intake during the day.
  • Keeping calm – after a long and tiring day at school and also having to deal with plenty of homework, the best thing to do is to keep them calm so that they can sleep better at night.
  • Discourage bad habits – this goes without saying, but you should discourage your teen from alcohol, smoking, and drugs, as these can all affect their sleep in a negative way.

Common Problems that Hinder Teens from Sleeping

  • Changes in biological clock – a teenager’s circadian rhythm is markedly different from that of young children. They now don’t get sleepy as quickly as before.
  • Excessive screen time – teens spend more time looking at screens than almost any other thing. Too much on screen time can confuse their circadian rhythm, making it difficult for them to find sleep. Limit their usage of their gadgets when possible.
  • More demands – with responsibilities at school, work, and at the house piling up, it becomes rare to fit a nine-hour sleep in their schedules. We encourage you, as parents, to monitor your teen’s activities and see if there are any proper changes that can be done to help them sleep better.

Conclusion

Sleep is important for everyone – and more so for children and teens. It is vital that all of us get the amount of sleep that is required of us every night. This helps us to perform better at work, school, and with life, in general. The phrase “sleep is for the weak” is often viewed as a negative comment. However, when you really think about it, after a long and tiring day, young or old, children or adults – our bodies grow tired; in other words, we get weak. So, the statement technically has a ring of truth to it.

Getting the right amount of sleep plays a vital role in our lives. Let us all embrace sleep and teach our kids important sleep habits to help them be at their best every day.

Want to know more? Contact us now and let us help you!

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