Sleep is an important ingredient in a child’s growth, especially in the early years. It is important for both the physical and mental health of the child. In the early childhood sleep pattern of the child keeps varying from time to time. Parents struggle to keep up with changing patterns and often find themselves at loss on how to manage the little one. In this blog we would talk about all aspects of child sleep, guide parents on how much sleep is adequate for your child as per age, and what can be done to ensure a healthy sleep pattern of the young one.
Importance of sleep for your child
Sleep is as important to a child as is eating and exercising. While kids sleep their brains are at work forming millions of neural connections. Kids who get an adequate amount of sleep on regular basis have improved concentration, memory, behavior, and overall physical and mental development. . A well-rested brain can solve problems, learn new things, and enjoy the day in comparison to a tired brain. Poor or inadequate child sleep results in mood swings, behavioral changes, and an impact on the learning ability of the child.
A study shows that child’s body makes growth hormones (HGH) while sleeping. These hormones are not only required for growth but also for the repair of muscles and tissues. These are helpful for the child throughout life as it supports triggering of growth spurts in early childhood and also the development of the body during puberty and beyond. Poor sleep schedule is known to be associated with obesity as well. This is because inadequate sleep leads to less secretion of a hormone known as leptin which is associated with appetite regulation in the child’s body
Sleep requirement of children
The body clock (specifically called a child’s circadian rhythm) is a 24-hour cycle that defines when your child’s body needs sleep. The child age influences this body clock and with time as children get older, they need less sleep.
We will mention some guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) along with some ballpark estimates.
Newborns (0 to 4 months old): 16-18 hours
The newborn includes 3-4 naps in their sleeping time. They should complete their recommended time in 3 to 4 hours at a time. Sleep occurs for a newborn around the clock in the early months.
Infants (4 to 12 months old): 12 to 16 hours (including naps)
The number of naps decreases to 2-3 in number. Nighttime feeding is usually not necessary for infants and children of the same age group sleep throughout the night.
Toddlers (1 to 2 Years old): 11 to 14 hours (including naps)
At 18 months of age, the toddlers mostly take only one nap a day. Parents should avoid giving naps to their children in the late evening as it can disturb sleep at night.
Preschoolers (3 to 5 Years old): 10 to 13 hours
Exhaustive day time schedule for preschoolers sometimes leaves them too tired and hyperactive at night time to fall off to sleep. A relaxing environment and regular reading sessions around bedtime can help them relax and get good sleep at night
School-age (6 to 12 Years old): 9 to 12 hours
School-aged children need time for school, homework, sports, and social activities. With parental control at this age children, many times start consuming caffeine products which can result in difficulty falling asleep at night. Watching TV close to bedtime can also lead to bedtime resistance and less sleeping span. School-age children need 9 to 12 hours of sleep but many children get only 7 to 8 hours per night and sometimes, even less.
Teenager (13 to 18 Years old): 8 to 10 hours
The sleeping time for the teenager becomes close to the sleeping time of adults. It is important for the teenager to have a proper regular sleep schedule to conserve on mental energy that they might need to undertake studies at school. Too much screen time is reportedly causing disruption in sleep patterns of many teenagers making them irritable and aggressive
Tips to ensure that child gets good sleep:
- Set a regular sleep schedule. Your must-have a defined bedtime for kids along with wake-up time.
- Dim the lights and turn off all electronic screens 60 minutes before bedtime.
- Check for noise in your child’s room in order to provide a calm environment for good sleep.
- For older children, a quiet chat with your child about the whole day helps your child feel better and relax.
- Avoid caffeine and sugary drinks in the second half of the day, particularly close to sleep time.
- Aim for at least one hour of daily physical activity for your child.
- Practice a quiet family activity like reading a book or story before going to sleep
- Do not place a TV in your child’s room. Research has shown that children with a TV in their room have less sleep.
- The children should not watch scary TV shows or movies close to bedtime. Give belief to your child that he/she is safe at night lest the child should feel scared about going to bed or being in the dark.
- Avoid exercise just before going to bed. Exercise early in the day will help a child sleep better.
- Use a child’s bed just for sleeping, not for homework, reading, and playing games. It will help his/her body to associate the bed with sleep.
- Make sure the child eats the right amount at the right time.
With the high importance of sleep, parents should do everything they can to make sure their child gets the rest he/she needs. Some signs of sleep deprivation in children are trouble waking up in the morning, cranky behavior, hyperactive, low concentration power, and having trouble staying awake during the day.
It is advised to speak to a doctor or a child psychologist/ pediatric sleep specialist if the child has the following behavior;
- Excessive fear or anxiety around going to sleep
- Frequent nighttime awakenings
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
Happy sleeping and Happy Parenting !