Scheduling Sleep by the Ages

October 5, 2015

One of the most controversial subjects in parenting is around setting the right bedtime for your child. If you have children, you know what happens when they do not get a full night’s sleep – and those results are not pretty! Experts say that going to bed early enough and at a consistent time can go a long way towards making sure your child has a positive attitude, and school-age children require additional sleep to help with attention, memory, and overall school performance.

Establishing and maintaining positive sleep patterns can help prevent future sleep problems, take the stress out of bedtime and can also help make bedtime a special moment to enjoy each other’s company instead of a constant war.

Newborns and Infants

Small babies are still developing their circadian rhythms and typically sleep in short bursts throughout the day and night. Babies around age 4-8 months start to develop true sleep habits that begin to look more like adult schedules of daytime and nighttime. Regular naps become increasingly important as you start to impose some regularity on your child’s sleep schedule. You’ll still want to follow their cues for wakefulness and sleep time. Right before their first birthday, most children are down to two naps (one morning and one evening). Bedtime should be scheduled no more than 4 hours after their last naps ends in order to keep them on a timetable.

Toddlers and Preschoolers

By their third birthday, children may have already stopped napping or may be inconsistent with their nap schedule. To accommodate getting enough sleep, many parents move bedtimes as early as 6 pm during this high-growth time. Kids of this age continue to need up to 13 hours of sleep per day, and will need to get to bed early to integrate enough sleep into their schedule.

Children and Pre-Teens

Believe it or not, many 7-12 year old children still need upwards of 10 hours of sleep. Fitting this level of sleep in between dance class, soccer practice, band practice and cheerleading – not to mention homework and a few minutes of relaxation – can seem impossible. However, in order for kids to function to their highest potential it behooves parents to make the effort to get them to bed before 9 pm.

Teenagers

Teenagers seem to be a whole different breed, staying up later, getting up earlier and spending the entire weekend in bed “catching up” if they are allowed to do so! Add in the fact that they’re more likely to be on their laptops or smartphones at night after lights-out and you’ve got the recipe for some fussy and sleep-deprived kids. Do your best to encourage healthy sleep habits, because it makes a huge difference.

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