Baby, toddler, preschooler, 3rd grader, highschooler, adult. No matter your age, sleep is one of our most important biological needs. As my favorite sleep guru Dr. Marc Weissbluth has said “Sleep is to the brain as food is to the body”. Our bodies regulate sleep in much the same way that they regulate eating, drinking, and breathing. This suggests that sleep serves a similar critical role in our health and well-being. I want to share 3 easy steps to ensure your entire family is getting the sleep that they need so “health and happiness abound.”
1. Know How Much Sleep is Needed And Insist On it
The amount of sleep our bodies require changes as we age. Very young babies sleep a lot – 16-20 hours a day (which makes perfect sense as their main objective is growing their brain and body). Many parents are surprised that at 12-18 months, their kids still need about 14 hours of sleep per day. Toddlers and preschoolers require 12-13 hours of sleep per day and school age kids still need 10-12 hours. There is a whole lot of growing going on, and remember – sleep is required for brain growth and development. And if you can believe it, highschoolers still need 9 hours of sleep per night! Knowing how much sleep your child needs to be happy and healthy will allow you to insure they are getting that sleep. For children who are still napping, ensure that naps are happening in sync with their circadian rhythms and that bedtime is occurring before overtiredness can set in. Children who are no longer napping, will need to achieve all of their sleep at night. As we can not count on our kids to sleep-in in the morning (don’t we wish!!), we need to make sure bedtime is early enough to achieve their total needed hours of sleep at night. For example: if your child needs 11 hours of sleep at night and they wake at 6:30am – they need to be fast asleep by 7:30pm. That is asleep, not just getting into bed. This goes for parents as well. To be healthy, well functioning adults we need quality sleep too!
2. Make Sure Bedrooms are Conducive to Good Sleep
Most of us know the ABC’s of a proper sleep environment for our babies and toddlers – a dark room (black out blinds and no sources of light) free from distractions (mobiles, toys, music), with white noise and a temperature between 65-70 degrees. Once our kids get older, we often forget about creating a bedroom that promotes good sleep hygiene, but it is just as important. No matter our age, our bedrooms should be very similar to the environment that you created in your nursery. This means that TV’s, smart phones, computers, and tablets should be turned off and left in the livingroom!
3. Routines Really Are Important
Pre-sleep routines are a necessity whether you are 4 months or 40 years old. Routines help our bodies to unwind and train our body and brain that sleep is forthcoming. For young children, bedtimes should be a bit flexible based on the quality of naps each day (on a poor nap day bedtime should be earlier, and on a good nap day a bit later). For older children, teenagers and adults, bedtime should be at about the same time each day.
Amy Lage is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a Family Sleep Institute certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant. She is founder of Well Rested Baby (www.wellrestedbaby.com). She offers a host of services including in person, phone, email and Skype/FaceTime consultations that can be tailored to meet any family’s needs and schedule. Amy, her husband Jeff, their 4 year old Stella, their 2 year old Harley, and their two dogs Jackson and Cody live in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. Please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. Be sure to follow WRB on Facebook and Twitter for more great sleep tips!