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The Importance of Sleep for Kids

Posted on Mar 12, 2018

Rachel Dawkins, M.D.

This week is National Sleep Awareness Week. It’s important for everyone to get a good night’s rest but even more important for children. Rachel Dawkins, M.D., with Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital talks about the importance of sleep for kids.

Why is a good night’s rest important for kids?

Sleep is an essential part of everyone’s routine and an indispensable part of a healthy lifestyle. Studies have shown that kids who regularly get an adequate amount of sleep have improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, and overall mental and physical health. Not getting enough sleep can lead to high blood pressure, obesity and even depression.

What is the recommended amount of sleep a child should get?

It varies based on age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:

  • Infants under 1 year: 12-16 hours
  • Children 1-2 years old: 11-14 hours
  • Children 3-5 years old: 10-13 hours
  • Children 6-12 years old: 9-12 hours
  • Teenagers 13-18 years old: 8-10 hours

Some kids are tough to get to sleep and others have trouble staying asleep. What are some tips you tell families to help kids get the recommended amount of sleep?

Establishing a consistent bedtime routine is important. The routine should ideally start at the same time every night. As soon as the sun goes down, start to “wind down” the household.

  • Dim the lights
  • Stop use of electronics/screens at least an hour before bed
  • Limit caffeine
  • Take a warm bath
  • Do a quiet family activity such as reading a short book
  • If your child wakes up during the night, walk them back to their room with as little commotion as possible
  • Set a wake up time for when the child is allowed to leave his or her room. The child can play quietly until that time if desired.

What should parents do if none of this works? Are there medications to try?

If your child is having daytime sleepiness or behavior difficulties in school that you think might be linked to lack of sleep, you should definitely visit your pediatrician. I would not recommend giving your child any “sleep medications” without first consulting your doctor as many of these are not safe for kids.

This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.

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