Aug 19, 2023

Build a Healthy Sleep Routine Starting At a Young Age

By St. James Healthcare

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Sleep habits are important to establish in young children in order for them to have a solid foundation of healthy sleep. Dr. Hicks said sleep is a critical time for mental and physical development, especially in children. Kids that get adequate sleep often have better attention, behaviors, learning, and memory.

Generally, children ages 6-12 should get nine-12 hours of sleep. Teenagers need eight-10 hours, she said.

Plan ahead to help your child shift gears if summer nights had them staying up later than normal. Dr. Hicks said the time needed to switch back to a school-year routine depends on how late children have been staying up over the summer. It takes about a week for every two hours past their normal bedtime. “If they have been going to bed at midnight, but their goal bedtime for the school year is 8 p.m., you should plan at least two weeks to get back to a normal schedule.”

Parents also should watch for signs that children aren’t getting enough sleep. Those include moodiness, irritability, temper tantrums, inattention, and hyperactivity. Other symptoms include fatigue, falling asleep at school, or trouble falling asleep at night.

Some health conditions might inhibit healthy sleep, Dr. Hicks said, such as sleep apnea, mental health concerns, reflux, and restless leg syndrome.

Snoring can be normal in children when the snoring is light and happens more when the child is sick or lying on their back. Loud snoring, however, or pauses in breathing can be a sign of sleep apnea.

If your child snores loudly or pauses in breathing, you should seek medical attention and have them evaluated for sleep apnea, she said.

Medical providers can help with other tips to improve sleep hygiene. Dr. Hicks said she generally doesn’t recommend sleep aids as a first-line option to improve sleep for children. In some cases, a low dose of melatonin can be useful, but only in consultation with a medical provider.

The most important thing parents can do is to help their children build good sleep habits at a young age. Dr. Hicks advised:

· Follow a bedtime seven days a week with school-aged children going to be no later than 8-9 p.m. and teenagers by 9-10 p.m.· Stop using all screens including tablets, phones, computers, and television about an hour before bedtime· Create a bedtime routine that might include bathing, putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, reading books and finding calming activities.

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