Get your kids to bed at a decent hour

September 07, 2015 | by Jacqueline Ross, M.D.

A good night’s sleep is essential for a productive school day – and a healthy kid. Your child may argue with you on this point, but the truth is, sleep is vital. And they likely need a lot more sleep than they’re getting now.

Developing good sleep habits early in life will help kids as they grow. A bedtime routine will help cut down the number of arguments over going to bed and waking up. If you didn’t establish a bedtime routine before the school year began, it’s not too late to start now. Begin by practicing the routine on the weekend.

These are some common questions parents have about their kids and sleep:

Q. Why is sleep so important for kids?

A. Your child may look like a peaceful angel when she's asleep, but there's a lot going on. Her body is repairing itself and her physiological processes are recuperating. As a result, a good night's sleep can help her fight off illness and stay healthy. Being well rested can also help keep her mood up and support good performance in all areas of her life, whether in school, at the piano or on the soccer field.

Q. What can we do to help our child get a good night's sleep?

A. Teach your child healthy sleep habits!

  • Set a regular bedtime and give your child about 30 minutes advance notice.
  • Establish bedtime rituals, such as brushing teeth, reading a story and, for young children, snuggling with a favorite stuffed toy.
  • Take the TV and video games out of the bedroom.
  • Make sure the bedroom is cool and well-ventilated.
  • Don't give your child caffeinated beverages, such as cola or hot chocolate.

Q. My preschooler gets up about five times after we put him to bed. We need some adult time in the evening. Any tips?

A. When your child gets up, promptly return him to his room with minimal comments. Avoid getting into a conversation or urging him to go back to bed. Repeat the process until your child finally settles into bed. Tell him if he wakes up in the middle of the night and can't go back to sleep, he can play quietly in his room until he's sleepy again. Teaching a child to self-soothe and to entertain himself can provide valuable lifetime skills. Be sure to praise him the mornings after he stays in his room all night.

Q. How much sleep do my school-age kids need?

A. School-aged children need between 9-12 hours of sleep at night. If you have to keep after your child to get up in the morning, or if she’s cranky and dozing off during the day, or "crashing" some evenings much earlier than bedtime, she's probably not getting enough sleep.

Learn more about services for sleep disorders at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Jacqueline Ross, MD, is a family medicine physician at Elmhurst Memorial Medical Group.

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