By Julie Zavala, DNP, CPNP, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Did you know that babies, children, and teens need significantly more sleep than adults to support their amazing, rapid mental and physical development? Most parents agree that kids need good sleep, but many don’t know just how many hours kids need. Most parents also do not realize the impact that missing as little as 30 to 60 minutes of sleep each night can have on their child.
We recommend an early bedtime for all children in order to get the sleep they need (7:00- 8:00 p.m. for babies and kids 2-12 years, and 9 p.m. for teenagers). Often teens wake up very early during the school year, and they need an early bedtime to get the sleep they need.
How do you know if your child is getting enough sleep? One of the reasons it’s so hard to know when our kids aren’t getting enough sleep is that sleepy children don’t necessarily slow down the way adults do—they get more active. Young children often act as if they’re not tired, refusing bedtime and becoming more hyper as the evening goes on. All this can happen because the child is actually overtired.
Here’s a great infographic about how much sleep children need by age.
There are lots of great benefits for kids when they get enough sleep! Getting enough sleep on a nightly basis leads to improved attention, behavior, and memory for learning. Improved emotional regulation (less angry outbursts) and mental and physical health are also known results of a good night’s sleep. NOT getting enough sleep each night is associated with an increase in injuries, hypertension, obesity and depression, especially for teens who may experience increased risk of self-harm or suicidal thoughts.
How can I help my child get more sleep? A consistent, soothing, wind-down routine with no screen time will lead to better sleep (Brush teeth, PJs, Book, and Bed is one example). If you and your child can practice the same routine every night at a young age, these routines will become habit and will get easier with time.
At Every Child Pediatrics, we recommend that all screens be turned off 30 minutes before bedtime and that TV, computers, and other screens be removed from children’s bedrooms. If your child has a cell phone, we recommend that you take the cell phone away at night and put it in a secure location where the child cannot get to it during the night.
If you suspect your child isn’t sleeping enough, it’s important to talk to your pediatric health care provider. If there is an underlying sleep disorder or another medical condition, your provider may refer you to a sleep specialist to discuss various treatments options. In many cases, though, sleep problems in children can be helped with changes to the habits surrounding bedtime. You have the power to make these changes! Call us at 303-450-3690 for an appointment if you would like help or support, or if you have any further questions!
Julie Zavala has been providing care to children at our School-Based Health Centers in Aurora since 2002. Learn more here about Julie.