The importance of sleep schedules for children

We’ve all experienced a cranky kid who has missed an afternoon nap or didn’t get enough sleep during the night.

Not pleasant, right? So yes, while sleep is important to avoid tantrums, there are far greater reasons as to why a child needs the right amount of sleep.

Brenna King, community development programmer at NorWest Co-op Community Health, says children who lack good sleep can develop negative effects such as short attention spans, difficulty with concentration, challenges with creativity and problem solving, issues in health, and changes in mood.

“Basically, if you want a happy, healthy, and thriving child, the right amount of sleep in their system regularly is important, and one of the best ways to support a good night’s sleep and the overall development and health of your child is to set a sleeping schedule,” King said.

A scheduled bedtime routine is important in all stages of life. Research suggests that maintaining a consistent sleep schedule with enough hours of sleep based on an individual’s age has positive benefits on overall health, mood, and concentration. Children aged six to 12 need nine to 12 hours of sleep, those aged 13 to 18 need eight to 10 hours, and adults need seven to nine hours a night.

Younger children and newborns are constantly learning, growing, and developing, so they need more sleep overall — night and day. Allow your infant or toddler to nap during the day even if they’re getting the required amount of sleep at night. Naps allow them to have a break in their daily activities, giving their brains and bodies a chance to catch-up to the stimulation of their experiences.

Newborns have erratic sleeping patterns, which are dependent on things such as their feeding schedules. However, a gentle way to introduce a sleeping schedule is starting a daytime routine of “Eat, play, sleep,” from the time your infant wakes.

“Introducing bedtime activities with nighttime sleeping, such as reading a story, singing a lullaby, and keeping the lights turned off in the room where your infant is sleeping at night, is another great way to get your child used to sleeping on a schedule,” King said.

Calm activities your child can enjoy around bedtime will allow your child to connect the positive feeling of those activities with going to sleep and recognizing that when these activities occur, bedtime is near. Some examples include story telling, cuddling, singing a bedtime song, reading a book, and having a bath.

Let your children know when bedtime is coming up so they know what to expect. For example,

“In five minutes, after you’re finished eating your snack, it will be time to head upstairs and get ready for bed.”

King says a huge negative impact on sleep is screen time too close to bedtime. Make sure to turn off all screens at least an hour before bed.

“Do your best to ensure that your child is getting limited screen time during the day, and more physical activity, like going on walks, playing sports and playing outside.

“Physical activity and sleep impact each other. With enough sleep they’re able to be more physically active during the day, and with more physical activity during the day, they’ll get a better sleep at night,” she said.


This article was first published on Canstar Community News