Good sleep hygiene gives children the best chances of getting adequate, healthy shuteye every day. And sleeping a healthy night is critical in promoting children’s growth and development. Research tells us that kids who don’t get enough sleep on a consistent basis are more likely to have problems at school and develop more slowly than their peers who are getting enough.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends the following amounts of sleep, based on age group:
- 4 to 12 months — 12 to 16 hours
- 1 to 2 years — 11 to 14 hours
- 3 to 5 years — 10 to 13 hours
- 6 to 12 years — 9 to 12 hours
- 13 to 18 years — 8 to 10 hours
Good-to-strong endorsement of certain sleeping hygiene practices for younger kids and school-age kids: regular bedtimes, reading before bed, having a quiet bedroom, and self-soothing — where you give them opportunities to go to sleep and go back to sleep on their own, if they wake up in the middle of the night. Even for older kids, keeping a regular bedtime was important. Adolescents whose parents set strict guidelines about their bedtime slept better than kids whose parents didn’t set any guidelines.
One big problem with school-age children is it can take them a long time to get to sleep, so avoiding activities like playing video games or watching exciting movies before bedtime is important. A recent study in New Zealand showed family dinner time was critical to helping adolescents sleep.
One Korean study linked school-age children’s and adolescents’ short sleeping duration to long commute times between home and school and large amounts of evening homework. With more children coping with longer commutes and growing amounts of school work, it is an important area for future study in North America.
Surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of evidence linking caffeine use before bedtime to poor sleep; it appeared to be the total intake during the day that matters.
More studies are needed to examine the effect of certain sleep hygiene factors on sleep quality, but setting bedtimes, even for older kids, and things like sitting down for a family dinner, establishing certain rituals like reading before bed, and limiting screen time as much as possible will improve your child’s sleep.