It’s that back -to-school time of year where both children and parents are getting used to different schedules and activities. During summer vacation, parents occasionally let their children stay up past their regular bed times or sleep-in later in the morning. But the demands of the day care, pre-school or school schedule require that children get adequate sleep nightly.

The sleep needs of children are different than those of adults.

Naturally, babies need the most sleep, 14-17 hours for newborns, 12-15 hours for infants four to eleven months, 11-14 hours for toddlers, ages 1 and 2, ten to 13 hours for preschool age children, three to five years old, and 9-11 hours for six to thirteen year olds. 

Children need more sleep than adults due to their rapid physical and mental growth. It’s important to be aware that tired children don’t necessarily slow down as adults do. Sometimes, they will act wound up, resisting bed time. This is most likely because they are over-tired. Research shows that an early bedtime, between 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. works best for babies and kids through school age.

With your pre-school and school age children, it’s important to establish a bed-time routine. If your family finishes dinner around 6pm, you can start the bed-time routine immediately afterward. It could include drawing a bath, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas and finally reading or telling stories together. If your child hasn’t fallen asleep during the story reading, humming or singing some favorite lullabies will probably do the trick. Some parents put on a dvd of quiet music or ocean or forest sounds when they leave the bedroom. Some children enjoy a light back rub to help them relax. If there is a large age difference between your children and you need to attend to the younger one(s), guide the older ones to their own independent activities once they finish their night time preparations. Older children might be capable of gathering what is needed for the next day of school in their backpack or packing their own lunches, with you doing a double-check when they are finished. Of course, the bedroom itself should be conducive to relaxation and sleep, away from house noises such as the t.v. or rattling sounds from the kitchen. Many children appreciate a night light in their room or in the hall outside.

A regular bed time routine creates safety and predictability for the children. It will help them sleep better, which will help you to sleep better! It provides quality time with your child(ren) at the end of a busy day.

Finally, pay attention to signs your child is ready for a new bed. If your child is complaining that s/he can’t get comfortable or the mattress is more than seven years old, it may be time to purchase new bedding. Let your child participate in decisions concerning sheets or covers or something special related to their sleep time. It will help teach them decision making and if they have chosen something they like, they will be that much more eager to co-operate at bed time.

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