May is better sleep month! Other than for an injury, it is hard to come through our office without talking about sleep because it is critical to our health and wellbeing. Inadequate sleep affects focus and learning, immune function, growth, and causes mood changes. I often get asked how many hours a child should be sleeping each day, which can be a difficult question to answer. Individual sleep requirements vary by quite a bit, but it is helpful to keep some ranges in mind. Generally we expect infants ages 4-12 months old to sleep 12-16 hours in a 24 hour period, 11-14 hours for toddlers ages 1-2, 10-13 hours for preschoolers, 9-12 hours for children ages 6-12, and 8-10 hours for adolescents. Additionally sleep requirements may be increased in the short term due to periods of rapid growth, illness or other stress on the body. If I am hearing about irritability or trouble in school, I am always going to ask about sleep as part of the conversation. Even if there are other factors at play, sleep deprivation can magnify any behavior concern.
So what things can we do to help kids get the sleep they need to feel good and grow? One of the most important things is to have a regular bedtime routine, and stick to it. Your body doesn’t know that it is a weekend, and later nights some days will make sleep initiation harder during the week when it is most critical to wake up ready to go. Because the light of screens can trick our body clock, it is key to ensure that all screens are off for the last hour before bed. Use that time for a mindfulness ritual to help reset the mind and body such as guided imagery, yoga, journaling, reading or prayer. This can be a common stumbling block for teenagers, so it is important to set expectations for screen use early on and try to set them up for success by charging out of the bedroom and using device limits. If they have tons of studying to do, I at least encourage reading assignments that don’t require screens to be done last, and pick a quitting time in advance that will include at least a few minutes to decompress before getting rest. During the day, spend active time outside and avoid doing school work in bed. Finally keeping the room cool and dark is also helpful for a good night’s rest.
Especially after some beautiful spring days, hopefully your family can commit to refreshed sleep routines to improve rest overnight to give you more energy to think and feel good during the day!