Healthy Sleep for Children

Bedtime troubles are very common at some point in most children’s lives. This often disrupts the household, and it prevents a child from getting the amount of sleep they need.

Your child should be getting the recommended amount of sleep depending on their age. These recommendations are only guidelines and not every child will follow them:

Age 1-2:
10-12 hours at night
1-4 hours during the day

Age 3-5:
10 hours at night
0-1 hour during the day; child may outgrow nap at this age

Age 6-11:
10 hours at night
No daytime nap required

What if my child won’t go to sleep?

Young children can easily fall into bedtime habits that are not always healthy. The following suggestions can help when a child does not want to go to bed or is having trouble staying in bed:

•    If your child cries, speak calmly and reassure him or her, “You are fine. It is time to go to sleep.” Then leave the room.
•    Do not give a bottle or pick up your child.
•    Stretch out the time between trips to the room if your child continues. Do not do anything but talk calmly and leave.
•    Your child will calm down and go to sleep if you stick to this routine. It may take several nights for your child to get used to the new plan.
•    If your child is used to getting a large amount of milk right at bedtime, start to cut down the amount of milk in the bottle by 1/2 to 1 ounce each night until the bottle is empty and then take it away completely.
•    Sometimes children get out of their routine of night sleeping because of an illness or travel. Quickly return to good sleep habits when things are back to normal.

Older children sometimes go through a stage when they revert back to bad sleep habits or develop new problems. The following are some tips to help parents with older children who have problems going to bed:

•    If your child gets out of bed, take him or her back to bed with a warning that the door will be shut (not locked) for 1 or 2 minutes if he or she gets out of bed.
•    If your child stays in bed, the door stays open. If your child gets out of bed, the door is closed for 2 minutes. Your child can understand that he or she has control of keeping the door open by staying in bed.
•    If your child gets out again, shut the door for 3 to 5 minutes (no more than 5 minutes).
•    Be consistent. Put your child back in bed each time he or she gets out of bed.
•    When your child stays in bed, open the door and give your child praise (for example, “You are doing a great job of staying in bed. Goodnight.”).
•    Your child can be rewarded by earning a star on a calendar for staying in bed all night. You can give a special prize for a certain number of stars earned.

If you think your child might have a sleep disorder, talk to their doctor about having a CHOC Children’s sleep study.

Establishing Good Sleep Habits for your Child

•    Older babies and children should have a nap time and bedtime schedule.
•    Limit screen time to no more than 2 hours per day, including time spent in front of smart phones, tablets, computers and TVs. Screens should be turned off at least 2 hours prior to bedtime.
•    Start a quiet time, such as listening to quiet music or reading a book, 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime. TV or other digital screens should not be a part of the quiet time.
•    After quiet time, follow a bedtime routine, such as a diaper change, going to the bathroom and brushing teeth.
•    Set a time limit for quiet time and the routine so it does not drag on and your child knows what to expect before bedtime.
•    Say goodnight, turn off the light and leave the room.
•    Security objects, such as a special blanket or stuffed animal, can be part of the bedtime routine.
•    It is important for children to be put to bed awake so they learn to fall asleep themselves.

Avoiding Pediatric Sleep Disorders and Coping with Daylight Saving Time

According to the National Pediatric Sleep Foundation, about 71 percent of infants wake at least once, and 21 percent of infants wake up three or more times per night. Thirty percent of parents report their children have difficulty with sleeping – across all ages.

Losing or gaining an hour of sleep due to daylight saving time can wreak havoc on sleep schedules, especially children who already struggle with sleeping problems.

Read more about tips for helping your child sleep and adjusting to daylight saving time.

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