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Posted on December 27, 2022 at 11:47 AM by Kari Bray
This is Part 26 in a multi-week series of blogs focused on the ABC’s for Healthy Kids. Learn more at www.snohd.org/healthykids.
The amount of sleep people need varies by age and other factors. Make sure you allow enough time for you and your kids to get the rest you need.Though missing out on some sleep might not seem like a big deal, it can have long-term health consequences if children regularly lack enough rest.There are multiple ways to help ensure a good night’s sleep for your kids, including consistent bedtimes, comfortable sleep spaces, and relaxing routines.
Good sleep habits can be just as important as things like diet and exercise when it comes to keeping kids healthy and reducing the chances of long-term problems.
The amount of time children sleep will change as they grow and develop. Be willing to adjust if your little one – or your not-so-little one, during the teen years – suddenly needs more sleep than usual. During growth spurts, developmental milestones, hormonal changes, stressful times, or while recovering from illness, kids may go through phases where their body requires some extra shut-eye.
They also may go through phases where they don’t want to sleep much at all. But it’s important that they get consistent, quality rest, so keep reinforcing the need for a full night’s sleep even if they insist they are fine with a few measly hours.
For teens and adults, about 7-9 hours of sleep per night is a pretty good target. Elementary school-age children should aim for a bit more – about 9-12 hours. So if you need to be up at 6:30 a.m. to get ready for work and school, you and the kids should start winding down for the night between 8 and 9 p.m.
For younger kids and babies, counting hours isn’t always helpful. They definitely need more than the 7-9 hours recommended for adults, but it won’t necessarily happen all at once, and it won’t necessarily all be at night. Babies likely will sleep for more than half of a 24-hour period, but in multiple stretches throughout the day and night.
The key is that babies and young children should sleep when they are tired. Their little bodies are telling them they need to rest so they can grow, develop, or handle new germs in their system.
While it’s helpful to start building bedtime routines at a young age, it may take a while before a child’s sleep schedule settles into those routines. Be patient, gentle, and consistent.
During the years when kids’ bodies are growing and changing, it is especially important that they get enough rest. This is also the time to build positive habits they’ll hopefully continue throughout their lives.
It’s easy to think of missing out on sleep as an inconvenience or a discomfort rather than a health problem. Being tired isn’t that big of a deal, right?
Except it can be a very big deal if someone regularly does not get enough sleep.
Lack of sleep increases the risk of problems over time, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It also increases risk of injuries – if you’re tired, you are less coordinated, less focused, and more likely to get hurt.
Losing sleep also interferes with kids’ ability to focus and learn. Our mind uses sleep, in part, to process and build memory. Learning doesn’t just happen during the day – it continues all through the night, and kids need that down-time to absorb everything they are seeing, doing, and studying.
If children are having a particularly difficult time sleeping and you aren’t able to improve sleep habits through strategies like setting a bedtime, limiting screen time, and making the sleep space dark and quiet, then it’s a good idea to talk to your child’s doctor. There are medical conditions that can interfere with sleep. It’s important to diagnose and address those early.
Take some time now to check off the “Z” in the ABCs for healthy kids. Are you and your kids getting enough rest?
Sleep is an often-overlooked key to health. Missing out on sleep can have bigger impacts than simply feeling tired. Build healthy sleep habits early to set kids up for lifelong wellness.