A poll by KidsHealth.org shows that 70 percent of kids say they wish they got more sleep at night. That’s not surprising, given that only 32 percent of those polled were getting the recommended amount of sleep for their age. This kind of sleep deficiency can cause children to be hyperactive at bedtime, falsely leading some parents to believe that the child should actually stay up later. A child’s bedtime varies depending on his age and daily routine.
Newborns generally average 16 to 20 hours of sleep throughout the day because their internal clocks haven’t developed yet. Until babies are 3 months old, they tend to wake up every three to four hours to be fed. According to KidsHealth.org, at 3 months, 90 percent of babies sleep through the night, averaging about 13 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period: four to five hours during the day and eight to nine hours at night. At 6 months, the child can be expected to nap for about three hours and sleep 9 to 11 hours at night. Because of the frequency of feeding times and naps, newborns have no specific recommended bedtime. Between 4 months and 15 months, sleep consultant Melissa Zdrodowski of SleepSisters.com suggests anywhere from 5:30 to 7:30 as an appropriate bedtime.
Once children reach toddler age, they begin to take shorter naps and may not require a nap at all. However, they still need an average of 10 to 13 hours of sleep a day. At this age, consistency becomes key. Naps and bedtimes should be around the same time every day. A bedtime between 6 and 7:30 p.m. is ideal for toddlers between the ages of 1 and 3, says Zdrodowski.
Preschoolers and School-Age Children
Both preschoolers and school-age children need 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night. Remember, as they give up naps, they’ll need to go to bed earlier to get the recommended amount sleep. A bedtime ritual becomes important at this age. Children need time to wind down before bed with a calming activity and should be given warnings half an hour and 10 minutes before bed. For children ages 3 to 6, recommended bedtime is between the hours of 6 and 8 p.m., suggests Zdrodowski, but this changes to 7:30 to 9 p.m. for children aged 7 to 12.
Once kids become teenagers, busy schedules can get in the way of adequate sleep. They’ll want to stay up later and sleep in; however, teens still need eight to nine hours of sleep and should encouraged to keep a consistent nighttime ritual and bedtime. Teens should be given flexibility in deciding a bedtime, depending on schedule, as long as they aren’t skimping on sleep during the week and then using the weekends to “catch up.” Use your teen’s school start time as a guide for when he should go to sleep.
Tips for Bedtime
Keep it consistent. Try to enforce the same bed and nap times every day. Begin bedtime with a calming ritual to help kids relax before bed. With babies, avoid stimulation like laughing, singing and movement. Put them in their crib drowsy but awake. For older children, try activities like taking a warm, soothing bath or reading a story. Limit intake of food and drinks containing sugar and caffeine, especially before bedtime. Don’t allow a television in your child’s bedroom. Electronic devices like TVs, computers and smartphones provide stimulation and should be limited before bed. The bed should be reserved for sleeping — not watching TV, playing video games or doing homework.
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