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Why Your Child Needs More Sleep Than You Think


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Children of all ages need more sleep than adults. The physical and mental growth that happens during childhood and adolescence requires extra rest, and that rest affects nearly every aspect of children's lives. Good sleep leads to “improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health," according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

New Sleep Guidelines for Children

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics recently published new sleep guidelines for children, from newborns to teens. Those sleep totals include naps. Even cutting out 30 minutes of rest can affect children, according to the National Sleep Foundation. As parents, it can be hard to pinpoint when your child hasn’t had enough sleep. Adults who need more rest tend to be drowsy. Children, however, do the opposite. They can become even more active, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Like adults, children can experience sleep problems. Some children are restless because of underlying mental conditions, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Sleep apnea and other problems can affect children as well. Your doctor may address these issues during your child’s regular checkups, and remember to ask questions if you have concerns. Younger children can have disrupted sleep for other reasons, according to the Oklahoma Department of Health. For example, children may be scared of the dark or worried about something that is happening the next day, like a test. They may also want more time with their caregivers. Reassurance and a consistent nighttime routine can help relieve some of these behaviors.

How to Help Your Child Get a Good Night’s Sleep

So what can you do? Here are some tips the Cleveland Clinic recommends:
  • Set an early bedtime. Babies and school-age children should be in bed between 7 and 8 p.m.
  • Follow a routine. Prep your children for bedtime by following a calming, consistent routine that includes activities like brushing teeth and reading a book. Follow your routine even on the weekends.
  • Eliminate screen time. Don’t watch TV or allow your children to play with tablets or phones at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Eat dinner early. Don’t eat a big meal within an hour or two of bedtime. A light snack is OK. Children should never go to bed hungry.
  • Keep an eye on naps. Younger children need naps. Newborns sleep 70 percent of the day, while most school-age children have given up naptime altogether. Napping is OK every now and then for older children, but too much sleep during the day can disrupt sleep at night.
A good night’s sleep is crucial any day, but getting enough rest during the school year is particularly important. A calming routine and healthy habits will help ensure your child gets enough sleep. Graphic about children's sleep needs

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