First come the protests – “I’m not tired,” “Just five more minutes,” “I want to watch this show” – then comes the tossing and turning that could be robbing your child of the sleep he or she needs to function properly.
Sleep problems can start early, as soon as your child is born, but are more detrimental as children grow and need to be rested to function through classes and playtime.
Why sleep matters
According to studies, kids who sleep less are more likely to experience attention deficit disorder – or experience problems with concentration that are misinterpreted as ADHD (Ref. 2) - and have slower cognitive development than their peers getting their 40 winks.
“If children are not sleeping well the consequences may be problems with behavior, attention, learning and memory,” according to Dr. Shelly Weiss, author of “Better Sleep for Your Baby & Child: A Parent's Step-by-Step Guide to Healthy Sleep Habits.” (Ref. 3)
Missing just one hour of sleep per night can lead to depression, a less effective immune system, behavioral problems and accidents on the playground. Kids who sleep less are also more likely to be obese, because they will often turn to food to help boost their sagging energy levels. (Ref. 2)
How much do they need?
According to the National Sleep Foundation:
- Newborns. It may not seem like it for mom and dad, but newborns sleep from 16 to 18 hours per day. That sleep, however, isn’t regulated, because the portion of your baby’s brain that controls wake and sleep time is not yet developed.
- 2 to 6 months. Babies this age sleep from 14 to 16 hours per day, including naps.
- 6 to 12 months. This is the time when babies begin to follow family sleep patterns, and will likely sleep through the night. Still, naps are required, as babies this age usually require 13 to 15 hours of sleep.
- 1 to 3-year-olds.14 hours of sleep daily, a mix of nighttime sleep and daytime naps.
- 3 to 5-year-olds. 11 to 13 hours of sleep, including naps.
- 5 to 12 years old. 10 to 11 hours.
- 12 to 18 years. While it seems as though teens sleep ALL the time, during these years, kids need 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep to function properly. (Ref. 2)
While you might think that the best thing you can do to ensure your child’s future success is to enrol him or her in a ton of after-school activities – ballet, soccer, music and athletics just to name a few – it might be a good idea to weed out a few so that your kids can get homework done and still have time to catch the sleep they need.
“If your kid never says, ‘I’m bored,' he’s over-scheduled,” says child psychologist Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D., coauthor of “Take Charge of Your Child's Sleep” and associate director of the Sleep Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. (Ref. 2)
Limit activities to one or two to get the benefits of extracurricular activities without impacting sleep.
Sleep Tips for Newborns and Toddlers
In order to help your little ones develop healthy sleep habits, it is important to know the signs of sleepiness, and put your baby to bed when he or she is drowsy, not already asleep.
- Try to establish a pattern of nighttime sleep as early as possible. You and your baby will appreciate it.
- Make bedtime consistent, and create a routine around it, such as bath time to relax followed by reading a book.
- Create a quiet, comfortable environment for sleeping.
- Encourage your baby to fall asleep without coaxing by encouraging him or her to find ways to sooth him or herself to sleep. (Ref. 1)
Sleep tips for older kids
If your child is consistently not getting enough sleep – and suffers from pain, nightmares, sleepwalking or other problems such as asthma, restless leg syndrome or anything else that could disturb sleep, visit a doctor to determine if there is some underlying health cause.
Otherwise, the following tips will help ensure that your older kids get enough sleep to perform well on tests and have the energy to participate in team sports and other activities.
- Limit caffeinated beverages, especially after lunchtime.
- Encourage your kids to get their homework done first thing after school, so they do not find themselves immersed in demanding subjects just before bed.
- Limit computer games, TV or cell phones around bedtime to begin creating a less stressful environment.
- Create a soothing environment conducive to sleep, including a comfy bed, light-blocking curtains and quiet. (Ref. 3)
A surprising sleep stealer
While we might think of sleep apnea as a disorder reserved for overweight men in their 40s or 50s who damaged their noses during their high school sporting glory days, sleep apnea can also be a problem for young people, and can be causing serious sleep problems.
If your child snores, wakes up more frequently than normal and does not seem rested even after a good night’s sleep, apnea may be the problem.
According to statistics over the past 20 years, cases of sleep apnea in children have risen by 436 percent, in part due to weight problems that can lead to excess fatty tissue in the throat that inhibits breathing. (Ref. 2)
By establishing bedtime routines from an early age, as well as ensuring your child gets the best possible ingredients in his/her diet, you’ll be improving their chances of getting a better night’s sleep. We recommend our Total Balance Children’s formula. It contains a comprehensive range of synergistic ingredients to help support the healthy function of your child’s various systemic functions, as well as even helping support healthy sleeping patterns.