Even though sleep is a natural and necessary function for the human body, it’s often one of the first things to be sacrificed when we get busy. A lack of sleep can lead to a number of health problems, and it’s especially important for young children to get enough sleep. You might not think your child can be too busy for sleep, but it is entirely possible they feel that way.
The average school-age child should be getting between 9 and 12 hours of sleep every night. This includes naps, which are still important even for older children. A child who doesn’t get enough sleep is more likely to be irritable and have trouble focusing during the day. They might also be more likely to become sick, as their immune system isn’t able to function as well when they’re sleep-deprived.
If you’re not sure whether your child is getting enough sleep, there are a few things you can look for.
- See if they’re yawning a lot during the day or if their eyes seem droopy.
- Pay attention to their mood. A child who is tired will likely be cranky and irritable.
- See if they’re having trouble focusing or paying attention in school.
- Watch for signs of illness, such as a runny nose or a cough. These can be more common in children who are sleep-deprived.
If you think your child isn’t getting enough sleep, there are a few things you can do to help.
- Set a Bedtime
This is easily done when the child is younger, but it can be more difficult as they get older and their schedules become busier. It’s important to try to stick to a consistent bedtime as much as possible. This will help their bodies get into a rhythm and make it easier for them to fall asleep at night.
If your child has a lot of after-school activities, it might be necessary to adjust their bedtime accordingly. A good rule of thumb is to subtract an hour from their usual bedtime for each hour they’ll be awake after school. For example, if your child usually goes to bed at 8 PM but has a soccer game that ends at 9 PM, their new bedtime would be 7 PM.
- Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
This can help signal to your child’s body that it’s time to wind down for the night. A bedtime routine might include taking a bath, reading a book, or listening to calm music. It’s important to avoid anything that might be stimulating, such as playing video games or watching TV.
You can find advice on setting a bedtime routine for your toddler here.
- Allow Time for Naps
Naps can be especially helpful for children who don’t get enough sleep at night. A nap during the day can help them catch up on the sleep they missed the night before. It’s important to make sure naps aren’t too close to bedtime, though, as this can make it harder for them to fall asleep at night.
There are even kids nap mats that can be bought online or in stores. These are mats that are specifically designed for napping, and they can be a great way to make sure your child is comfortable while they sleep.
- Limit Caffeine
Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, soda, and even some foods. It’s a stimulant, which means it can make it harder for your child to fall asleep. It’s best to avoid giving caffeine to children, but if they do have it, make sure they have it early in the day so it doesn’t affect their sleep at night.
- Keep a Sleep Diary
This can be a helpful way to track how well your child is sleeping. You can write down when they go to bed, when they wake up, how many times they wake up during the night, and how long they sleep during the day. This can help you identify patterns and figure out what might be affecting their sleep.
- Talk to Your Child’s Doctor
If you’re still concerned about your child’s sleep, it’s a good idea to talk to their doctor. They can help you figure out if there’s a bigger problem, such as sleep apnea or insomnia. They can also offer more tips on how to help your child get enough sleep.
It might be a daunting thought, taking your child to the doctor, but it’s worth it if it means they can get the help they need to sleep better.