Children and Sleep, From Bed to ZZZZZZ

“I’m not tired.” “I’m scared.” “I’m lonely.” “I’m too hungry to sleep.” “My belly is too full, I can’t sleep.” “I’m thirsty.”

The excuses go on and on, and the kids (and the parents) just get crankier and crankier.

In our fast paced lives, sleep can almost seem over-rated. Ah, so much to do, so little time. On the contrary, research indicates this to be far from the truth. Proper sleep encourages healthy body growth, supports brain development, and boosts the immune systems. Additionally, a consistent good night’s sleep plays a role in preventing obesity, increases alertness and the ability to concentrate, and supports overall mental health.  A study published in the November 2013 issue of Pediatrics documented that children with irregular bedtimes were more likely to have behavioral issues.

With so many fabulous and important benefits how do we get our tired kids to sleep successfully? Here are some tips to help do just that!

1.Establish a consistent bedtime for each child. This is critical through the summer as well! Also have your child wake up at approximately the same time each day. Reference the chart below for guidelines of how much sleep different age groups need.


* Birth – 2 months old need 10.5 – 18 hours


*3 – 11 months old need 9 – 12 hours (and additional naps)


* 1 – 3 years old need 12 – 14 hours

* 3 – 5 years old need 11 – 13 hours

* 5 – 12 years old need 10 – 11 hours

Adolescents need at least 8.5 – 9.25 hours

Adults typically need 7 – 9 hours

(Source: National Sleep Foundation)

2. Once you have determined a bedtime for your child, implement a bedtime routine approximately an hour prior to lights out. The goal is to wind down and prepare your child for bed so when the bedtime arrives they can actually be ready to sleep.

3.Take the time to create and execute a bedtime routine. It will vary depending on the age of your child, but could include any or all of the following: Turn off electronics, take a bath or shower, put on PJ’s, brush teeth, have a sip of water, go to the bathroom, let them read quietly to themselves or read together. Sometimes when children finally slow down, they have a chance to reflect on their day and may need to talk about it. If this is your child, keep that in mind and build in an opportunity to chat a bit. Doing so may remove concerns from their minds allowing them a peaceful sleep. Find what works for your family, but do your best to keep it consistent.

4. Okay, so you’ve established a bedtime and successfully implemented your bedtime routine. But then, the excuses come, warranted or unwarranted; they become a stumbling block to a successful night’s sleep. Here’s how to avoid / deal with some of the most common ones:

 I’m not tired. – Most young children do not recognize that they are tired. You can acknowledge their feelings, but don’t let them sway you. Stick to your routine and typically just through the process of getting ready for bed and creating the relaxed quiet atmosphere will help them. If you are a parent who typically gives in and lets your child stay up later, they will recognize this weakness in you and take advantage of it. In the end, they need you to be consistent.

I’m hungry. – If your child had a healthy supper, they more than likely will be fine to sleep through the night. If, however, your child was particular active that day or maybe hitting a growth spurt, they may need a few extra calories. Offer a healthy, light snack. This could be a piece a fruit, cheese stick, or a small yogurt. Avoid foods that are high in fat, salt or sugar. If you know this is a reoccurring problem / complaint for your child, offer a snack as you begin your bedtime routine.

I’m thirsty. – A simple sip of water could be all it takes. If, however, this is a nightly challenge, include filling a small water bottle with cold water that could they can reach for it instead of calling you in time and time again.

 My belly’s too full to lie down. – If this is constant complaint, try smaller portions at dinner or an earlier dinner time.

Remember the good sleep habits we as parents help our children create now will last them a life time, so hang in there, hold your ground and get those kids to bed. You all will be happy and healthier for it.


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