It’s common knowledge that many adults are living with some level of sleep deprivation. However, adults are not the only age group suffering from the effects of the digital age and overcommitment to activities. Many kids and roughly 90 percent of teenagers are getting less sleep than they should, which can lead to a slew of physical, mental, and emotional health problems. If your child isn’t getting enough sleep—or their body clock is out of rhythm during the summer—try these 5 tips for creating a healthy sleep routine.
1. Develop a bedtime routine
Younger children know that bedtime is a time of separation, so they often pull out all the stops to keep you around, which makes coming up with an effective routine tricky. Consider cutting back on extracurricular activities. Most families have a bloated life schedule, with different events for each kid going on throughout the week. The later your kid gets home, the later they can start winding down for bed, and the harder it is to have a consistent routine.
To help them feel like they have a say, include your child in developing the bedtime schedule; once you develop the details together, post it somewhere in their room to make it official. You may want to tweak the plan a little bit for the summer, but try not to let it deviate too drastically from the plan they’ll be following for most of the year.
2. Make your child’s room a haven
Your child, whether they’re four years old or 14, needs to have a bedroom that inspires them to sleep. Many experts believe that a dark room leads to falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer. Children’s eyes are more affected by bright lights than those of adults, so turning off such lights and using dimmer switches in your child’s environment can help them fall asleep. For bedtime reading, using a soft, warm light can help protect melatonin production. If a nightlight is needed, be sure it shines low and close to the ground. Furthermore, keeping the room cooler at night can also encourage sleep.
3. Implement an electronics-free rule
If your child is staying up too late and too often, try ruling out electronics an hour before bedtime. You may want to consider removing technology from their bedroom. Clutter and blue light from screens not only delay sleep, but they can cause distractions and keep your child from getting quality sleep through the night. Reading a book instead of bringing Netflix works for kids and adults alike. If your kid gets used to not having access to electronics at bedtime, they’ll begin to associate their bedroom with sleep.
4. Know how much sleep your child should be getting
A critical part of ensuring your kid is getting enough sleep is knowing how much they should be getting. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, here’s the breakdown of the necessary amount of sleep per day for each age group (counting naps):
- 12-16 hours for infants 4-12 months
- 11-14 hours for kids 1-2 years
- 10-13 hours for kids 3-5 years
- 9-12 hours for kids 6-12 years
- 8-10 hours for teens 13-18 years
While it’s important to make sure your child is getting enough sleep, it’s also important to keep them from sleeping too much, especially during the summer.
5. Ease them back into school time
It’s essential for your kids to have healthy sleep habits so that there’s not a drastic difference between waking up for school and waking up during the summer. For instance, if your teenager is getting 8 hours per night while waking up at 6:30 during the school year, they should adjust their summertime schedule to ensure they still get 8 hours. Furthermore, the transition should be gradual. If they stay up later in the summer, it’s helpful for them to start getting their circadian rhythm back to normal a week before school starts back.
Good sleep is vital for a child’s health. While it’s OK for them to change up their sleep routine a little during the summer, they should still be getting the right amounts of rest. You can help make sure that happens by developing a bedtime routine, making their room a comfortable sleep zone, limiting electronics, knowing how many hours they should get, and easing them back into their sleep schedule for the school year.
Julia Merrill is on a mission. She wants to use the information to close the gap between medical providers and their patients. She started BefriendYourDoc.org to do just that.