All human beings need to sleep. A good night’s sleep boosts health, safety, performance and wellbeing, and it’s especially important for school-age children.
“Children and teens need significantly more sleep than adults to support their rapid mental and physical development,” said Dr. Clay Stallworth, a pediatrician for Augusta Health at the West Wheeler office. “A child’s body and brain are busy during slumber preparing for another day of tasks and growth, so it’s essential that children get the proper amount of sleep.”
It’s not always easy to know when kids need more sleep because drowsy children don’t necessarily slow down the way adults do—they wind up.
So, just how many ZZZ’s are enough for your school-age child?
“Every child is unique and has unique sleep needs; however there are suggestions based on age,” Stallworth said. “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 10 to 11 hours of sleep for school-age children.”
Stallworth also shares five tips for helping your children achieve a good night’s sleep:
- Develop a regular daily bedtime schedule, and don’t stray from it – even on weekends. Your child’s body gets used to an established rejuvenation time and will be ready for sleep.
- Create a standard and enjoyable bedtime routine. Set aside 15 to 30 minutes to get your child ready to go to sleep each night. Children like a sense of predictability in their routine because it brings them comfort. A suggested routine, especially for children 10 and under, would include taking a bath, dressing for bed, brushing teeth, reading a story and saying goodnight.
- Avoid before-bedtime sleep traps. Do not let your child eat chocolate or sugary foods, or drink caffeinated beverages late in the day. It’s also important to establish an early curfew – 30 minutes or more before bedtime – on TV watching, video games and even vigorous play, so that children are not over-stimulated close to bedtime.
- Establish a permanent “sleep-friendly” environment. Make sure your child’s bedroom is quiet, dark and at a comfortable temperature. Keep the bedtime environment the same all night.
- Encourage your child to fall asleep independently. Whether an infant, toddler or older child, this is a must. Stallworth recommends accomplishing this in your child’s infancy. The older children get, the harder it will be to break their dependence on Mom or Dad for help with falling asleep, and that can affect Mom and Dad’s bedtime.
Studies show that about one in three children – kindergarten through fourth grade – may experience a sleep-related problem, such as frequent waking, sleep walking, talking in their sleep, bedwetting or nightmares. Fortunately, as they mature, children usually outgrow these common sleep issues.
“With a solid routine and a little discipline, you can help your children achieve sweet dreams,” Stallworth said. “And chances are, if your kids are getting a good night’s sleep, you probably will too, and that makes for a healthier family all around.”