Is your child’s sleep schedule off? Here are expert tips for getting back on track
It seems, as a society, we don’t understand, appreciate or value the importance of sleep to our day-to-day functioning and health. The amount of sleep children and adolescents need changes overtime.
For example, 5-year-olds need 10 ¾ hours of sleep, 10-year-olds need 10 hours of sleep and 17-year-olds need 9 hours.
There are many instances where sleep schedules can shift. These include summer vacation, a change in season or even just a small vacation away from regular routine. During these breaks from routine, children stay up later and sleep in later. It becomes a challenge — for both parents and kids — to get the sleep schedule back on track.
As a parent I think, “I’ll just put my children to bed earlier,” but as a psychologist, I recognize the flaw in this approach. Well-rested children are not going to fall asleep earlier just because they go to bed earlier. When a child lays in bed awake for an extended period of time — more than 30 minutes — he or she does not learn to fall asleep when going to bed. Rather, the child learns to be awake.
To prevent this pattern, the best strategy is to begin waking your child earlier in the morning and then putting him or her to bed earlier at night. A parent can do this gradually or all at once.
The all at once approach should start one week before school (or whenever you need to have a new schedule in place). Wake your child according to the school day schedule and make sure your child stays awake all day with no napping. At night, have your child go to bed according to school year schedule.
With the gradual approach, wake your child 30 minutes earlier every two to three days. Start the process so by a few days before the start of the school year (or when a regular routine must start), your child is getting up on the school year schedule. Move the bedtime 30 minutes earlier every couple of days to achieve the bedtime schedule for the school year.
Keep in mind how much sleep is recommended for your child and work to make sure his or her schedule allows for enough sleep.
For more information about sleep issues visit www.boystown.org.