A new outfit, new shoes, paper, pencils and the rest of the items on the school supply list ~ there is a great deal to have ready for the start of school. In our house, one of the greatest preparations for the new school year is changing our sleep habits. With the sun shining longer in the summertime, we generally get to bed later, and definitely sleep in longer. It’s an adjustment to get back into an early morning routine.
A wonderful book on sleep is Sleepless in America, by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. She says, “a good nights sleep begins in the morning.” I’ve heard many parents discuss how their child isn’t ready to sleep at night. Every child is different, but we can set the stage as best we can. All day long we make decisions that can help or hinder a child’s ability to sleep at night. Little decisions like allowing a child a caffeine-filled beverage, skipping a nap for a special activity, overscheduling, having a rushed breakfast or a late dinner, staying up late for a movie, can all make it more difficult for a child to fall asleep.
Encouraging an active lifestyle, getting fresh air, limiting exposure to electronics (that actually stimulate the brain), listening to what may cause stress for a child (traveling parent, major life changes, changes in bedroom, etc.) can aid a more restful sleep.
Having patience and responding sensitively to a child’s needs at bedtime is also key. In order to sleep well, a child needs to feel calm and safe. It may be a night-light, a special blanket or something else that offers comfort. For young children, bedtime routines may last up to 45 minutes; perhaps beginning with a warm bath or shower, a story, a refreshing healthy snack, brushing teeth, reflecting on the day, and ending with a comforting tuck-in. The routine offers the opportunity for the child to wind down and prepare for a good nights sleep.
How much sleep is needed? According to the National Sleep Foundation, in a 24-hour period, for a healthy active individual to experience optimal performance they need the following:
- Newborns (0-2months) 12-18 hours
- Infants (3-11 months) 14-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-3 years) 12-14 hours
- Preschoolers (3-5 years) 11-13 hours
- School-age children (5-10 years) 10-11 hours
- Teens (10-17years) 8.5-9.25 hours
- Adults - 7-9 hours
Sound sleep is key to good behavior! “Without sufficient sleep, your child’s performance, mood, focus and ability to work with others deteriorate rapidly.” (Sleepless in America) Children will rarely tell you that they are tired. Please help children be prepared for the new school year by creating an environment that protects their sleep!
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“The difference between a child who is well rested and one who is not is a smile on his face ~ and on yours.” (From Sleepless in America, Kurcinka).