From infants who keep you up all night to teenagers who can sleep all day, children and sleep can be a problem for many parents. While one child may differ from the next in terms of the amount of sleep he needs to function, there can be serious repercussions both in terms of physical and mental health when your child does not get enough sleep.
What is ‘enough’ sleep is the next big question. It all depends on the age of your child. Newborns and infants sleep for most of the day and night but get up at frequent intervals to feed or be changed. By the age of six to eight months your baby should be sleeping for six to ten hours at a stretch (hopefully at night) but don’t be surprised if this isn’t the case. Some kids can be problem sleepers or light sleepers and even the smallest of sounds can wake them. If this is the case, speak to your health care worker or pediatrician for tips on how to get your infant to sleep on a schedule.
As your child moves into school going age, a routine should have fallen in to place. Toddlers and young children require a minimum of nine to twelve hours of sleep at night while middle school going children and teenagers need up to ten hours of sleep at night. As parents, it is your duty to figure out how much sleep your child needs to function properly. Sleep deprivation in growing children and teens can lead to behavioral and emotional problems. This happens because sleep affects that part of the brain that controls and regulates emotions and responses. Proper amount of sleep is also essential for brain development in children. For teenagers, sleeping at night induces the release of the hormone require for growth and physical development.
Some signs that your child is well rested include:
He can fall asleep easily at night (usually within 15 to 30 minutes of getting into bed).
He wakes up fresh and active and does not need constant cajoling to get up.
He is alert and active throughout the day. You can check with his teachers in school to verify this as well.
If this is not the case, there are things you can do to improve the situation. Some tried and tested ways to get your kid to bed in time and inculcate good sleep habits include:
Make bedtime something to be looked forward to. Build a ritual around sleep time such as bathing, story time, and night cuddles before firmly insisting that he sleeps at the correct time.
Be aware of your child’s routines and habits. Some children start to fade in the early evening; this is the time for parents to wind down their day and get dinner and bath time started. In this way, you can avoid meltdowns and tantrums that are bound to follow with a cranky tired child.
Stick to a routine. This is the most important. Children thrive on routine and anything unexpected can throw them off balance. Wake up at the same time everyday, eat meals regularly and schedule in some study and play time. All of these steps will help towards ensuring that your child gets the sleep he needs.
It is best that your child does not have a TV or computer in his room. Access to media and games can affect brain patterns and agitate children to the point of sleeplessness.