8 Healthy Sleep Habits for Kids

March 15, 2022

Young Loving Mother Reads Bedtime Stories to Her Little Beautiful Daughter who Goes to Sleep in Her Bed; blog: Healthy Sleep Habits for Kids

Do you know how much sleep your child needs? The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has guidelines for the amount of sleep children should get. The guidelines are updated with the latest available science and are endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The current guidelines are:

  • Infants (4 months to 12 months): 12 to 16 hours (including naps)
  • Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours (including naps)
  • Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours (including naps)
  • School-Aged (6 to 12 years): 9 to 12 hours
  • Teens (13 to 18 years): 8 to 10 hours

If your child is not getting enough sleep, it can affect their ability to grow and learn. World Sleep Day is coming up on March 13th, so we have put together a list of healthy sleep habits to increase the amount of sleep your child gets each night.

1. Keep to a Nightly Routine

One of the most important healthy sleep habits for kids is to maintain a nightly routine. Set a bedtime using the above sleep guidelines and be firm about it. Their routine should include bathing, brushing teeth, quiet time (that may include a story), and getting into their own bed.

2. Put Them to Bed While They’re Awake

As part of your child’s nightly routine, he or she should be awake when they get in bed. Letting them fall asleep in front of the TV or in your own bed is a bad habit. Every once in a while might not hurt, but they need to learn to fall asleep in the same place every night and consistency is key.

3. Cut off Screen Time

Research has shown that watching screens like TVs, phones, tablets, and computers can disrupt sleep even after they’ve put the device down. Putting a TV in your child’s room is highly discouraged, and you should have a curfew for older kids with their own phones and computers. All screen use should be stopped at least an hour before bedtime.

4. Schedule Quiet Time Before Bed

Since you’re already turning off devices an hour before bed, you can set aside that time each night for a calm down period. This can create a smooth transition to bedtime. Screens are off-limits, but your child can read or listen to some soft music on a low volume. Those with packed schedules may want to combine quiet time with bath time and other bedtime preparations.

5. Be Mindful About Drinks

Younger kids who are no longer in diapers may need to limit how much they drink starting a couple of hours before bedtime. This will limit nighttime bathroom trips and decrease the chances of bedwetting. Babies should never be put to bed with a bottle of milk or juice. Water is fine for them to have, but anything else in the bottle can lead to baby bottle tooth decay.

6. Avoid Caffeine Later in the Day

It’s a good idea to limit caffeine for young children in general, but it is even more important later in the day because it can interrupt the sleep schedule. Watch out for products that contain caffeine after lunchtime. 

7. No Going to Bed Hungry (Or Too Full)

Being hungry can interfere with sleep, but so can being too full. Offer kids light snacks like cereal or fruit before bed. Avoid heavy meals at least an hour before bedtime. Some children will use hunger or thirst as a stalling tactic to delay bedtime. To avoid this, make it part of your routine to ask your child if he or she is hungry before you start their bedtime routine.

8. No Playing in Bed

Your child’s room should be an environment that encourages sleep. When it’s time for bed, the bedroom should be quiet, at a comfortable temperature (70-75° F), and dark. During the day, your child’s bedroom may be used for play if there aren’t other alternatives. Even if that is the case, the bed should be off-limits for everything but quiet time and sleep. They need to learn that the bed is a place for rest. Limit toys in bed to a favorite stuffed toy, doll, or another comfort item. Again, do not put a TV in your child’s bedroom.

At Holly Springs Pediatrics, we know how important getting enough sleep is for your child’s overall health. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s sleep habits, call (919) 249-4700 to make an appointment.