Newswise — Having a good night’s sleep is vital for a child’s well-being. But getting your child to sleep is not always the easiest task. With the stressors of the past almost two years, there has also been an increase in the incidence and severity of hyperactivity, insomnia, anxiety, and depression in children, especially adolescents. Prabhavathi Gummalla, MD, FAAP, pediatric pulmonology and sleep medicine specialist at The Valley Hospital’s Pediatric Sleep Disorders and Apnea Center, in Ridgewood, NJ, discusses how to get your child back to sleep.
Q: How do we get our kids into a good sleep schedule?
A: I recommend parents should help children to achieve a consistent and strict sleep schedule to the desired timing keeping in view the recommended duration of sleep needed for them.
It is also very important for children to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every day—even on weekends and holidays! Keeping a consistent sleep pattern will allow them to easily transition no matter what time of year.
Q: How much sleep does my child need?
A: As per The Sleep Foundation, the recommended duration of sleep for preschoolers (3 to 5 years) is 10 to 13 hours, while school-age kids (6 to 12 years) need 9 to 11 hours each night. Adolescent children (14 to 17 years) need 8 to 10 hours of sleep. Some children may need more sleep or less sleep, and it depends on whether they feel tired and sleepy during the day.
Q: Why is sleep so important for children?
A: Sleep in children is essential for growth, immune function, and overall development of a child. It gives your body enough rest and prepares for the next day. In children who do not sleep adequately, there is a higher incidence of anxiety, inattention, poor executive function, cognitive dysfunction, depression, aggressive behavior, and they may have poor growth.
Q: How can I help my child to unwind at bedtime? What about electronics?
A: Activities such as reading a book or listening to soothing music can help children relax at bedtime. It is also important to make sure the bedroom is quiet, dark, and set to a comfortable temperature. If possible, the bed should be used for sleep only.
You should definitely keep computers, tablets, and TVs out of the bedroom. Blue light affects sleep, and children should only use these devices for up to two hours a day. Avoid the use of any devices at least 1 to 2 hours before bedtime.
Q: What are some useful tips for getting to sleep/bed on time?
A: There are a few things you and your child can work on for adequate sleep.
- A consistent sleep schedule and good sleep hygiene help improve sleep.
- Having a warm bath prior to bedtime and physical activity prior to 4 to 5 p.m. promotes sleep.
- Having the right sleep environment that is noise-free, dark, and cool helps in sleep onset.
- Limiting the use of electronics, particularly 1 to 2 hours prior to sleep, is strongly recommended.
- Using the bedroom only for sleep helps retrain your brain to fall asleep.
- Going to sleep when you start feeling sleepy is recommended.