We all know that good sleep habits are important for children. But parents’ busy work schedules, after-school activities and homework can all cut into family time on school nights, and can have a big impact on how much a child sleeps.
Given the fact that time together for so many households starts at around 6 or 7 o’clock or even later in the evening on a school night, it can be tough to set an early bedtime.
And since experts say school-age children roughly need about 9 to 11 hours of sleep — which means they need to go to bed around 8 or 9 o’clock, depending on what time they need to get up — that doesn’t leave much time for anything besides dinner, homework and reading one short book chapter together.
But it can be particularly important for grade-schoolers to get enough shut-eye. How much a child sleeps can have a big impact on her growth and development. Research has shown that lack of sleep can affect a child’s temperament, behavior, alertness, and ability to learn. Children who do not get enough sleep have been shown to perform more poorly on memory and attention tests. And an April 2009 study found that sleep problems in the grade-school years were linked to poor scores on mental tests when the children reached adolescence.
So what can you do to make sure your child sleeps enough to function at his best? Try these tips to help your child develop good sleep habits and sleep well every night:
1. Stick to a routine: A good bedtime routine is essential when it comes to instilling good sleep habits in kids. A bath, pajamas, brushing teeth and a few pages from a book — whatever your nighttime ritual is, be sure to stick to it consistently so that your child knows what to expect and can easily move through every routine efficiently each night.
2. Limit the electronic stimulants: Don’t let your child use the computer, check her phone, or watch TV at least an hour before bedtime. These electronic screen activities can be stimulating, and can interfere with falling and staying asleep.
3. Keep her room comfortable for sleeping: Make sure your child’s room isn’t too hot, too stuffy, or too bright.
4. Set aside extra time for catching up. If your grade-schooler has younger or older siblings, be sure you give each child individual time with each parent.
5. Watch your child instead of the clock: How much your child needs to sleep can vary depending on his individual needs. Some kids may do just fine on 8 hours of sleep while others need a solid 10 or more. Look for signs of sleep deprivation such as hyperactivity, crankiness and memory or concentration problems. If you see these signs, get your child to bed early, take steps to banish fights over bedtime, and be consistent about bedtime routines every night.
6. Avoid caffeinated products: Your child should avoid products that contain caffeine in the late afternoon/evening. Be aware caffeine-containing products include ice-tea, some clear non-cola pops, energy drinks, and chocolates aside from the more obvious colas and coffee.