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Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep?

As parents it can feel like we have so much to keep tabs on for our children: making sure they get their five-a-day; school homework; limiting screen time; extra curricular activities; the list goes on. One thing we can often overlook though, is sleep.

Sleep is important for adults and children alike; we all need enough sleep in order to function well and we can all suffer if we don’t get enough sleep. In children though sleep is even more important. It plays a significant role in brain development in younger children, and in teenagers although we hate to admit it, extra sleep is crucial for that growth spurt all teenagers go through.

Sleep is also incredibly important in children’s day-to-day lives and in their ability to function well and learn. We all know how hard it is to concentrate and keep our cool if we’ve not had enough sleep. As adults we can recognise that we’ve not had much sleep, and we can drink caffeinated drinks to get us through the day. Children often do not recognise that their lack of ability to focus is due to poor sleep, and it can be hard for adults to make the connection too, unless we are paying attention to their sleep habits.

Scientific evidence has shown that getting the right amount of sleep each night is just as important for children’s development as other things such as regular exercise and a healthy diet.

How Much Sleep Does My Child Need?

We are all individuals, and this applies to children too so it is impossible to give an exact figure for the amount of sleep each child needs.

That said, there are a few rough guidelines to bear in mind:

  • Between the ages of around 5 and 11, a child will need around 10-12 hours of sleep per night.
  • Between the ages of around 11 and 18, a child will need around 8.5-10 hours of sleep per night.

How Do I Get My Child To Sleep More?

Most parents struggle with getting their child to sleep at one point or another. Here are a few tips to help you with this:

  • A solid bedtime routine is essential, especially for younger children. Things like bath time, story time and other regular activities help children to wind down for sleep, but also signify to them what is coming next. They come to expect that after their bath they put their pyjamas on and get into bed, and will cease asking for a snack or to play.
  • The idea of a bedtime routine for older children might sound strange, but it is still possible and advisable. Rather than "bath time and story time,” perhaps make a point of spending the last half hour of their day sitting with them for an informal chat, playing a simple game or otherwise engaging with them. Often older children still crave that attention from their parents but don’t know how to ask for it, and fostering this connection can help them to fall asleep feeling more relaxed and calm.
  • Limit screen time before bed. The blue light from a screen is stimulating to the brain and so can prevent children getting to sleep at night. This can be hard to police as children grow older, but it is worth putting a screen curfew in place that again, just becomes the norm as they grow.
  • Avoid stress at bedtime. It can be infuriating if a child is employing world-class delaying tactics to avoid going to bed, but becoming irate will only cause them to become stressed too - and prevent their falling asleep.
  • Talk about the importance of sleep. Rather than the age-old "because I said so” explain to your child why it is important for them to go to bed, and how a good night’s sleep will help them. Many children respond well to reasoning in this way.
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