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With summer, consistency and routines fly out the window; and this summer has been unlike any other. But as school starts back up we’ll have to lose those lazy day habits and welcome a new season of school and schedules. A gradual transition is key in our case, and one of the most essential back-to-school needs for my kids is returning to a normal sleep schedule.
To ensure our kids are getting the right amount of sleep each night, we start getting into our new sleep routine a couple of weeks prior to that anticipated first day. Running a multi-directional household with kids going in all directions at all times of the day can be challenging for setting a consistent bedtime routine.
If you’re anything like me, every year around this time, you experience that whole “cowgirl trying to wrangle in her wild stallions” routine. But ultimately, Mom knows best and studies show that kids thrive off good sleep routines to prosper throughout their day.
For school-age kids, research has shown that adding as little as 27 minutes of extra sleep per night makes it easier for them to manage their moods and impulses so they can focus on schoolwork.
How Much Sleep Should Kids Get Every Night?
Having four kids, this is a question I often ask myself. Whether we’re working on getting the kids back on a regular sleep schedule for school or not, I want them to be well-rested and healthy. Recently, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, changed its recommendations for how much sleep children should get.
- Infants 4 months to 12 months should sleep 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
- Children 1 to 2 years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
- Kids 3 to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
- Children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep 9 to 12 hours per 24 hours
- Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours per 24 hours
Why Does Consistent and Regular Sleep Matter?
A study published in Pediatrics found that children with non-regular bedtimes had more behavioral difficulties. That alone is worth the extra effort in ensuring they get the proper amount of sleep! Consistent sleep routines lead to positive outcomes such as improved attention, improved behavior and improved emotional regulation.
One question without a clear answer, according to Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson of Seattle Mama Doc: Does poor sleep lead to worse behavior or do children with behavior challenges have a difficult time sleeping? Both can be true for some children. The bottom line, insufficient sleep in children can also lead to an increased risk for challenges with weight, hypertension, diabetes and decreased performance at school.
It’s pretty clear in our house that insufficient sleep makes it harder to enjoy our days, so this mom is all about sleep routines for better daytime productivity and harmony in our house.
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What About Screen Time?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all screens be turned off 30 minutes to 1-2 hours before bedtime. Further, small screens (like smartphones) are more disruptive to sleep than TV. The light from these devices can impede natural hormones that help us fall asleep. And the interruptions from devices can fracture our sleep, too.
With blogging being part of my job as a full-time influencer, I can attest to the fact that smartphones do affect your sleep. If you’re looking for optimal sleep patterns, don’t sleep with your cell phone, and make sure your children are refraining as well.
Children who consistently sleep fewer than 10 hours a night before age 3 are three times more likely to have hyperactivity and impulsivity problems by age 6.
Take Advantage of the Science
Did you know that kids under the age of 12, or before puberty, get tired naturally around 8 p.m.? According to Dr. Swanson, at approximately 8 p.m., there is a natural rise in their melatonin levels, recommending that parents seize that opportunity to transition kids to bed.
We have a strict 8 p.m. policy in our house during the school year—homeschooling or not. I must say that I agree with Dr. Swanson on seizing the opportunity!
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If Your Child Has Trouble Falling Asleep
Sometimes kids have trouble falling asleep. Especially as they try to transition back into a more traditional sleep schedule for the school year. If you notice that this is happening on a regular basis, keep a sleep diary. This can help you uncover the causes of a child’s sleep problems.
Check out the KnowYourOTCs site for more details on starting a sleep diary, especially if you are planning to talk to your child’s doctor about it.
Important Reminder For All Parents
Never give your child an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine to make them sleepy. Always read the label before giving your child an OTC medicine. OTC cold and flu medicines may contain diphenhydramine, which can cause drowsiness. It is important to only treat your child with the right OTC medicine. Only treat the symptoms they are presenting, don’t use them to aid in sleep.