Raising Healthy Kids

Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep?

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By Stacy Leatherwood Cannon, M.D.

You might think too little shuteye is primarily an adult dilemma, but it turns out many kids are sleep deprived too. When children aren’t sleeping well, they’re more prone to act out and suffer from learning and behavioral problems. Their immune systems may take a hit, too, making them more vulnerable to colds and flu.

So while doctors and the media frequently point to diet and exercise as the primary indicators of health and well-being, sleep plays an equally important role. One reason parents may not be considering sleep as a health concern: They may not always be sure how much sleep their children need.

Here’s a breakdown of daily sleep requirements for children:

  • Ages 4-12 months: 12-16 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 1-2 years: 11-14 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 3-5 years: 10-13 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 6-12 years: 9-12 hours
  • Ages 13-18 years: 8-10 hours

How to Help Your Child Get a Good Night’s Sleep
You can help ensure your children get adequate sleep by establishing good sleep habits starting in infancy. As time goes on, encourage kids to go to bed and wake up at the same times every day, even on weekends. Create a soothing bedtime ritual. And keep bedrooms as dark as possible.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it’s best if you can sleep in the same room (but not the same bed) with your baby for the first year of life. Whether you choose a pack-n-play, bassinet, or bedside crib, make sure the sleep surface is firm and there are no pillows, blankets or bumpers. This reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Pacifiers, too, may reduce the risk of SIDS.

After your baby’s first birthday, consistency is key, such as a basic schedule of 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. for younger children, shifting to later bedtimes as they grow. That said you should also know that sleep cycles change at different ages. Teenagers, for example, are physiologically wired to fall asleep and wake up later (say midnight to 10 am). Your best bet: Establish an appropriate bedtime based on the child’s wake time and cut out all electronics (which interfere with sleep) an hour beforehand.

Beyond that, pay attention to cues that your child may not be getting enough sleep. Is he or she irritable? Struggling in school? Falling asleep at the dinner table? You might even keep a log for a few days and count the hours your child spends snoozing. If it doesn’t add up to the recommended range, gradually back up bedtime in 15-minute intervals over the course of a few weeks to achieve a solid schedule.

Still struggling? Visit your child’s pediatrician and ask for a referral to a sleep specialist. Sleep not only affects your child’s growth and development, it also impacts their overall happiness, and that should never be underestimated!

To find a doctor or sleep specialist at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

Written By:

Stacy Leatherwood Cannon, M.D.

Stacy Leatherwood Cannon, M.D., is a pediatrician and the physician champion for childhood wellness for Henry Ford LiveWell. Dr. Leatherwood Cannon credits her love of helping people as the reason she became a doctor. She chose pediatrics because she is fascinated with children, their development and what she calls their incredible "bounce back ability.” She is currently writing a book and hopes to publish it in 2015. She considers her parents her heroes, noting that their hard work, sacrifice and belief in her have been the keys to her success.

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