According to the National Sleep Foundation, school-aged children between the ages of 6 and 13 should be getting a recommended 9-11 hours of sleep. Teens, ages 14-17 years old, should get between 8-10 hours of sleep per night. It is no surprise that, with the non-stop schedules and overuse of technology, kids these days are slacking on their sleep—and they may not even realize the effect that it is having.
With sleep being such a vital aspect of day-to-day health and productivity, it is imperative to ensure that your child has time to power-down and rest. Again, with after-school obligations, hours of schoolwork, and other extra-curricular activities occupying much of the evening hours, getting adequate amounts of sleep during the week is often put on the backburner. But consider this: teenagers that get the recommended amount of sleep during the week report having more focus, better memory and concentration, and greater motivation. So, despite the common belief that we cannot possibly taper down our hectic evening schedules, there are ways to guarantee a more restful night’s sleep for your child.
Start by implementing an earlier bedtime routine. This may be difficult initially, especially if your child has adapted to a “night owl” schedule. However, after the initial adjustment period, everyone’s sleep will be better for it. Begin with baby steps. For instance, depending on your child’s age, you may want to start by moving bedtime up by 20 minutes and continue with gradual adjustments.
Along with a sleep-time modification, certain foods and drinks should also be abandoned before bedtime. Obviously, caffeinated or sugary drinks and snacks will do little to coax a child to sleep. But perhaps less obvious are the subtle sleep-disrupting culprits. High-fat, salty, or spicy foods can also make for a restless night’s sleep. Even whole milk before bed is not recommended because of its potential to upset the stomach.
Screen time is also a major culprit when it comes to disturbing a child’s sleep. Not only can technology such as smartphones, laptops, and TV act as a procrastination tactic, but they also disrupt the circadian rhythm. Specifically, the light from screens sends “wakeful” signals to the brain, keeping children alert. Instead, reduce this type of stimuli by modifying your “lights out” rule—it should be lights out AND “turn off” time. Again, this will not be an easy transition, especially for teenagers. However, the amount of screen time that people experience at night is directly related to quality of sleep. Also, notice how I said people? Try this no-phones policy for the whole family to improve your own sleep, too. The more you lead by example, the more eager your children will be to get on board with the “screens off” rule.
Regular exercise is another sure-fire strategy to ensure that your child gets a restful night’s sleep. Burning off the extra energy after school is an excellent way to help children ease into sleep at the end of the day. When energy isn’t expelled, it becomes especially difficult for children to settle in and rest. This energy also makes for a restless night of tossing and turning. Even a walk around the neighborhood after dinner can make all the difference when bedtime arrives.
Now is the time to assess your family’s sleep habits and make adjustments that will benefit everyone. Time to power down.