Sleep is important at any age. But how much should we let our kids sleep? Is going to bed and sleeping the same thing, health-wise? How effective are naps? Let's learn more about how much our kids need to sleep.
How does age effect sleep?
Newborns and infants need a lot of sleep. Children under the age of 2 should be getting between 11 and 17 hours of sleep depending on age, with newborns closer to 17 and 2-year-olds closer to 11. By preschool ages, 3-5 years, aim for 10-13 hours of sleep per day. School-aged children should be getting 9-11 hours of sleep. Teenagers, despite their busy schedules, also need a full night's sleep. Kids ages 14-17 years should still be getting 8-10 hours of sleep per night. We all know as adults how beneficial 8 solid hours of sleep can be, so it's even more vital that older teens are allowed that time to rest and recharge.
How important are naps?
Turns out, napping is an important part of a child's sleep schedule. For parents, the goal becomes transforming the sleep patterns of a newborn over time into a reliable nap schedule, and finally a normal sleep schedule. By the time children reach preschool age, naps should be built around their school schedule. No naptime in kindergarten? Make sure your child is getting extra sleep at night to make up for the adjustment. These are the years when it is important to create an optimal sleep environment. Try to avoid nightlights if possible, opting instead for white noise machines to comfort a young sleeper. Just being in bed and actually sleeping are two different things, so avoid sending kids up to bed with their tablet or phone.
What makes a fussy sleeper?
Believe it or not, research shows that a fussy sleeper and a fussy eater can go hand in hand. The key seems to be structure. Enforcing routines with plenty of small indicators is the best way to keep children on a schedule that works for them. Have rituals and routines that lead up to sleep and meal times so that transitions are not jarring. Another tip for fussy sleepers: they might be too hot! Ditch the flannel pajamas, heavy blankets, and bed warmers for a simple sleep shirt, turn on a fan (bonus white noise), or turn up the AC before bedtime. Children tend to sleep better when they are on the cool side, so see how that works for your child!
It's rare for anyone to sleep through the night, and this includes children. Kids may wake up several times in the night, and that’s okay. Teach kids how to deal with waking in the night without having to get up from bed, thinking it means they can't sleep, or sneak out for a snack. Encourage drinking water, stretching muscles, and changing position before laying down again to fall back asleep untroubled. Also, it's very natural for children to want to sleep near parents, in safe spaces, or with one another. Having a positive attitude to this impulse helps soothe anxiety. Being understanding of your child's natural tendencies also makes sure your child is getting the sleep they need and keeps your relationship with your children strong.
Bedtime resistance is a very common problem reported to pediatricians, and can affect your entire day with your children. Being patient, paying attention, and creating a solid plan for your kids is the best way to transition them into being good sleepers who are healthy for years to come.