by Rachelle Tannenbaum
Even though everybody sleeps, many people don’t realize just how vital sleep is for our everyday functioning. Consider the following:
The average child, even in middle school, requires at least 9 hours of sleep per night. Teenagers generally require anywhere from 8 to 9.5 hours a night.
Chronic sleep deprivation can lower immune system functioning, impair academic performance, and contribution to social and emotional difficulties.
Many children suffer from sleep problems such as nightmares and sleepwalking, which can be stressful for both the children and their parents.
So what can parents do to cultivate healthy sleep habits? That's the topic we explore in this month's ezine.
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ENCOURAGING HEALTHY SLEEP HABITS
by Rachelle Tannenbaum
Specifically for younger kids
- Create a consistent bedtime routine. This is particularly important for babies and young children. Give some warning before bedtime so that children know to start getting ready. Routines might include a song, reading a story, taking a bath, or other soothing activities. Don’t give in to consistent requests for “just one more book” or “just one more drink of water.” Allow enough time for the routine, and then gently but firmly put your child to bed.
- Make sure that young children get enough naps. True, on any given night a nap-deprived toddler might sleep for a longer time. But in general, toddlers who take daytime naps will sleep better at night. And of course, they will be less cranky during the day, which makes life easier for everyone! Not all preschoolers require naps, but many will benefit from
- Teach children to fall asleep on their own. If you go into your child’s room every time you hear a noise, your child will learn to expect this and will be unable to fall asleep without comforting.
For kids (and adults!) of all ages
- Avoid TV before bedtime. Research shows that watching TV before bedtime makes it harder for people to both fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Keep TVs and computers out of the bedroom. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that bedrooms be “media-free zones” with no TV, computer, video games, etc. These can be powerful temptations for a tired person who really should be sleeping but can’t resist the pull of sending one last email or getting sucked into watching one more show. And if you get used to falling asleep with a TV on, then you will come to associate sleep with the glow of the screen. This means that when you wake up in the middle of the night, you will find it more difficult to fall asleep without that TV.
- Avoid caffeine at least six hours before bedtime. Even when people are able to fall asleep after consuming caffeine, their sleep is often of lower quality than it otherwise would be.
- Lose weight. This is actually a two-way street. On the one hand, it’s easier to keep weight off if you get sufficient sleep. And if you lose the weight, this in turn lowers the odds of many sleep disorders.
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule all throughout the week. Many people like to enjoy their weekends by staying up later and then sleeping in, but this makes it harder to adjust on Monday. Some flexibility is obviously important, but avoid extreme changes whenever possible.
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