SLEEP! This is a powerful word to many parents. The effects of sleep deprivation are well known to those of us who have spent months caring for kids who have not made it to the “sleep through the night” phase. Now, more research is showing that kids and babies who don’t get enough sleep are at an increased risk for more than just crankiness.
Babies and kids who don’t get enough sleep are at a clear disadvantage. More and more studies are showing links between lack of sleep and ADHD symptoms , obesity1, diabetes2, and even heart disease3.
Books, articles, theories, and more have been published on sleep training. While gathering as much information as possible about how to improve the time that your little one is asleep, the truth is that each child is different. So, what’s normal?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, newborns should sleep 12 to 18 hours out of every 24 (every new parent hopes), with a gradual reduction to 12 to 14 hours for toddlers ages 1 to 3; 11 to 13 hours for preschoolers 3 to 5; and (yes!) 10 to 11 hours for schoolchildren ages 5 to 10.
How can you get your child to sleep better? Try some of these ideas:
- Routine, Routine, Routine. This helps to trigger relaxation as their brains begin to anticipate that sleep time is coming. I recommend turning the lights down low in the house, starting at 6 pm. Melatonin (a hormone that establishes sleep/wake cycles) will be triggered by lowered lighting. Give yourself an hour to complete the routine, with plenty of prompts (“ we will be getting ready for bed in 15 min, etc.”). Start with a warm bath, P.J.s, teeth brushed, and ONE book.
- Use music on a timer every night, preferably the same song. This will help to establish an additional trigger for sleepiness when your child hears the song. In addition, using a fan or other white noise maker can be a life saver.
- No TVs in the bedroom!
- Make sure it is dark in the bedroom. Invest in black out curtains if necessary.
If your child wakes frequently in the night, you may have to look into some of the sleep training modalities. Every parenting style is different, but I am a fan of consistency. If your child wakes, take them immediately back to bed. This can be easier said than done for some children, but if you NEVER GIVE UP, it will work.
Sometimes, there are metabolic issues that can prevent your child from sleeping well. I have seen many children in my clinic that had varying sleep issues, from night terrors to bedwetting, that were affected by low blood sugar. An easy way to test this is to start including a high protein, low sugar snack before bedtime. Some ideas are almond butter, hot dog without the bun or lunch meat (organic, nitrate free!). You should work with a health care provider if you think that this could be the cause.
I hope this helps and as always, if you have any questions, please just “Ask Dr. Tara“.
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