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Sharp Health News

5 tips to help older kids sleep

Aug. 15, 2019

5 tips to help older kids sleep
New parents tend to worry about whether their infants are getting enough sleep. There are endless books, articles and discussions among playgroups or in pediatricians’ offices that focus on how to get a baby to fall (and stay) asleep.

However, sleep is equally important through every stage of your child’s life. While most kids over age 6 can get themselves ready for bed and fall asleep on their own, there are plenty of distractions and poor bedtime behaviors that can upset sleep schedules and lead to negative health consequences.

According to Dr. Beti Nissan, a pediatrician with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, children ages 6 to 12 should sleep 9 to 12 hours each day. Because most kids in this age group no longer nap, it’s important that parents make sure their children get their recommended amount of sleep at night.

How sleep — both a lot and not enough — affects kids
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that consistent, quality sleep can improve several areas of your child’s life, including:

  • Attention
  • Behavior
  • Learning ability
  • Emotional regulation
  • Mental health
  • Physical health
  • Quality of life
On the other hand, inadequate sleep can lead to health concerns, such as obesity, high blood pressure and headaches. A child’s mental health can be negatively affected, as well, resulting in behavior problems, irritability and depression. Studies have also found that children who don’t get enough sleep experience performance issues, including difficulty concentrating at school and an increased risk of sports injury.

How to help your child get enough sleep
So, how can you be sure your child gets enough sleep? Dr. Nissan says that much like babies, older kids thrive on routine.

“Keeping bedtime routines the same every night helps kids get to sleep easier,” she says. “It’s also important to address daytime issues, such as a new school or family dynamics, that may be causing your child stress or anxiety, which can also cause sleep issues.”

Dr. Nissan joins the AAP in encouraging parents to follow these five tips to help kids sleep well:

  1. Set a good example. Make your own sleep a priority to show that quality sleep is a part of healthy living, much like good nutrition and exercise.

  2. Keep a regular routine. Although travel, special events, holidays or school breaks can cause an upset in your family’s schedule, do your best to maintain the same waking time, meal times, after-school activities and bedtime.

  3. Stay active, but not overscheduled. Make sure kids stay active throughout the day and include time outside and physical activity, which can be free play — playing tag, chasing the dog, a family walk around the block — or scheduled (dance class, sports practice or lessons). However, don’t overschedule your child or plan so much that a regular routine or appropriate bedtime is unattainable.

  4. Monitor screen time. Keep anything with a screen — TV, computer, laptop, tablet, video games and phone — out of children's bedrooms, especially at night. Turn off all screens at least one hour before bedtime.

  5. Practice good sleep hygiene. Make your child’s room a good setting for sleep by dimming the lights, making sure voices and all other sounds in the home are low, and removing anything, such as toys, that might be a distraction.
Talk to your child’s doctor if you are concerned your child may have a significant sleep issue. Signs include snoring or erratic breathing during sleep, sleepwalking, or taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep several nights each week.

This article is the third in a series of articles on children and sleep. The first two articles shared tips to get an infant to sleep and addressed how to tackle toddler sleep troubles. Future articles will address teens’ sleep issues.

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