Establishing sleep routines and patterns for kids can have a significant impact on how they learn, grown, and interact with others each day. While summer vacation and holidays can affect sleep schedules, it’s important to establish a routine, especially when heading back to school.
While busy schedules can make routines a little trickier, now is an important time to create and stick to a nighttime routine that includes a reasonable bedtime. For the busy season ahead, we have some tips to help set sleep schedules and make them easy to follow all year long. Please note: if your child has excessive sleep, behavior, or other health problems, consult your pediatrician for additional care.
How Much Sleep Does My Child Need?
Whether you are the parent of an infant or a teenager, there are few things that parents worry about more than how much or how little sleep their child is getting. Depending on their age and overall demeanor, the need for sleep can vary among children and adolescents.
How Much Sleep Should My Child Be Getting?
For the most part, there are some general guidelines and timeframes that should be followed for your child over the years. The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following amounts of sleep for kids:
Newborns (0-3 months): 14 to 17 hours
Infants (4-11 months): 12 to 15 hours
Toddlers (1-2 years): 11 to 14 hours
Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10 to 13 hours
School-aged kids (6-13 years): 9 to 11 hours
Teenagers (14-17 years): 8 to 10 hours
The amount of sleep your child needs and the amount of time they actually sleep will depend on your their overall health, exercise level, and dietary intake. Typically, children who are healthy, get plenty of exercise, and eat balanced meals are more likely to have easier sleep habits.
Still, there are some children who have other conditions that make bedtime a little more difficult. In those instances, we find building a routine becomes incredibly effective for creating a calming nighttime routine.
How To Create a Nighttime Routine for Kids
The key to setting up a solid sleep schedule is to create a nightly routine. By creating a routine that indicates to your child bedtime is near, it becomes easier to enforce a bedtime. Their bodies will also acclimate to a routine, making it easier for them to fall asleep.
Many family nighttime routines begin with dinner, then bath or shower time, followed by story time (or for older kids, alone time to read, do homework, or talk with friends), and finally, lights out and sleep time.
There are many children who have a hard time falling asleep, staying in their bed, or just settling into a set routine. Additional environmental changes may need to occur to help sleep happen more naturally. Ideas to try include keeping the room cool and comfortable, playing soft music or using a sound machine, offering a small snack before bed, limiting the amount of fluids before bed, and keeping the number and duration of “good nights” and bedtime stories to a minimum.
The more firm you can be about bedtime, the more your child will adapt to going to sleep over time. If you have further questions about bedtime routines, especially for newborns and infants who tend to have longer sleeping patterns, please ask us!
How Do I Get My Child To Sleep After Daylight Savings Time Changes?
After Daylight Savings time changes or while traveling to different time zones, the slightest shift in hours can throw off schedules that have been working well.
Luckily, the Daylight Savings time in the fall, when we gain an hour of sleep, is a little easier to handle than springing forward and losing an hour. Since we fall back an hour, this means that kids should go to bed a little bit later leading up to Daylight Savings. If his or her bedtime is at 7:30pm, try letting your child stay up until 8:30pm. By pushing back bedtime, it makes it easier for your child to wake up on time the next day. Try doing this at least a few days before the time changes to help stay on track.
During Daylight Savings in the spring, do the opposite. Work with your child to go to bed incrementally earlier each night. This way, they will go to bed on time, wake up on time, and not feel as though they have lost an hour of sleep.
When you change time zones for travel, build in time for naps as needed. If you are traveling at odd hours, make sure your child is able to rest during travel. Depending on which time zones you visit, be aware of how these hours will affect your child’s schedule before, during, and after traveling. As with adjusting schedules during Daylight Savings time, make bedtimes earlier or later depending upon where you are going for a few days leading up to travel.
Start Routines Now, Enjoy Sleep Later
There is no better time to start a routine than now! Even if you have a routine but feel it is not working effectively, think of ways that you can enforce bedtime, shorten the amount of bedtime negotiations, and be more firm in getting your child to sleep on time. The sooner you can make routine a priority, the better off you will be during the holidays.
Depending on your child’s age and overall health needs, the amount of sleep he or she needs may differ. That’s why your pediatrician is here to assess your child’s health and sleep habits, helping you identify areas that might be making sleep more difficult. Together, we can talk about pain points surrounding bedtime, plus any changes in diet, exercise, or other influences that can impact sleeping hours.
To discuss your child’s sleep problems with your pediatrician, give us a call today. We can talk about different strategies to try and effective routines to follow. The best gift you can give yourself throughout the holiday season is a good night’s sleep. Start today and enjoy a restful, happy holiday season ahead!