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Help your child get a good night’s sleep

September 04, 2015

Written by Betty Cheney, MD, MPH

As one of the pediatric resident physicians at Arnold Palmer Hospital, I write a lot of prescriptions. Today I want to take some time to talk about a prescription for our kids to get a good night’s sleep. With school back in session, it is a good time to think about bedtime routines.

Why is sleep important for kids?

As adults, we know we feel better after a good night’s sleep, but what about our kids? When we’re tired, we may have problems with learning, reacting, and focusing. This is true for kids as well, but they may show their sleepiness in other ways. They may be more angry, impulsive, or moody. They can have a tough time paying attention and may be too active. This combination can be tough during the school day.

How much sleep do kids need?

The amount of sleep we need depends on our age and can vary from person to person. On average newborns sleep 16 to 18 hours a day. Preschool-aged children sleep 11to 12 hours a day. School-aged children sleep at least 10 hours a day. Teens sleep 9 to 10 hours a day.

Teens need a few more hours of sleep than adults, but they also have an additional challenge during the school year. During puberty a natural shift occurs in a teen’s sleep cycle (internal clock) to a later bedtime and later wake time. This makes it challenging for teens to get enough sleep during the school year.

Teens want to start falling asleep around 11 p.m., so in order to get 9 to 10 hours of sleep, they would wake up around 8 or 9 a.m. In an ideal world, middle schools and high schools would have later start times to assist with this change.

However, there are ways we can help our teens (and the rest of the family) get the sleep they need to grow and succeed in school.

Tips for better sleep:

Use the bed for sleep only, not watching TV, reading, or playing games
  • Keep phones, tablets, TVs and other screens away from bedtime
  • Try to go to bed and wake up around the same time everyday, even on the weekend
  • Keep the room quiet, or add soothing sounds (relaxing music, white noise, fan, etc.)
  • Warm bath or shower one hour before bedtime
  • Avoid caffeine and spicy foods within 4 to 6 hours of bedtime
  • Avoid exercise within 2 hours of bedtime
Go ahead and give these a try. See what routines work best to help your family develop habits that lead to healthy sleep.