Let’s face it – the vast majority of our kids are sleep deprived. Though it may appear that they have an overabundance of energy, constantly bouncing off the walls and refusing to fall asleep at night, the 7 or 8 hours that your child is currently getting isn’t enough sleep. Sleep experts recommend the average elementary school student get about 10 or more hours of rest every evening; for middle school and high school students, they say about 9 hours. Though it may seem like an insurmountable task, well-rested children have been found to perform better academically in school, are less likely to get sick and have lower rates of obesity. Try these 7 tips to help your child get more restful sleep each evening.
1. Regular Bedtime: Having a consistent bed time is important for children of all ages. For your young child, work with them to go to bed at the same time each night. Create a chart that tracks how often they get to bed on time and reward them with a sticker. Though older children are usually more autonomous about setting a bedtime, it’s still important to encourage them to keep it consistent. If you notice that they are constantly staying up past their bedtime, talk with them about reevaluating their schedule to ensure that sleep is a priority.
2. Consistent Sleep Schedule on Weekends: Some kids see the weekends as an opportunity to sleep in and stay up super late. However, these choices will completely throw off their sleep routine and inadvertently cause them to feel groggy when Monday roles back around. Encourage your child to go to bed within an hour of their normal weekday bedtime and sleep in no later than 2 hours past their normal wake time on the weekends.
3. Dark, Calm & Cool: Ensure that your child’s bedroom is a dark, calm and cool environment. Turn off the lights and make sure their no extraneous illumination that may keep them awake at night. If they have a nightlight, move it away from their head so that the light isn’t shining directly in their eyes when they are sleeping.
4. Unwinding Before Bed: For the younger kids, a relaxing nightly routine is key. Reading a book, taking bath, and brushing their teeth are all ways to start to unwind before falling asleep. Even for older kids, experts recommend they take a half hour prior to falling asleep to unwind from the day. Try to avoid loud arguments, scary television shows and overly stimulating activities before bed.
5. Turn Off the Electronics: From TVs to cell phones, computers and tablets, electronics seem to surround us at every turn. The light emitted from these devices actually stimulates the brain of your child and keeps them awake for longer. Try to establish an electronic curfew for your entire family. About a half hour before your child goes to bed, turn off the TV, send your last tweet, store away the tablet and start to unwind for a restful night of sleep.
6. Keep Electronics Out of the Bedroom: Experts say one of the biggest issues for kids of all ages is the exposure to electronic temptations while they are trying to fall asleep. If your child currently has a television or computer in their bedroom, kindly remove it and find a more central location for it in your house. Encourage your children to charge their tablets and cell phones in a place outside their bedroom. This will ensure that they aren’t distracted by one more tweet or text as they are falling asleep.
7. Avoid Caffeine: Instead of soda, coffee or caffeinated teas encourage your child to drink water or milk when he gets home from school. Ensure that you have non-caffeinated options readily available and consider establishing a rule that limits caffeine consumption to only the weekends.