Sleep Tight: Helping Your Preschooler Get That Sleep

New Jammies_TrainsAsk many New Jammies moms and dads if they want to take an afternoon nap, and they’ll likely respond, “Sign me up!”

Preschoolers, well they can be a different story.

Parents know how precious sleep is, but kids sometimes need a little persuasion. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) stresses that babies, children, and teens need significantly more sleep than adults to support their rapid mental and physical development.

“Most parents know that growing kids need good sleep, but many don’t know just how many hours kids require, and what the impact can be of missing as little as 30 to 60 minutes of sleep time,” the NSF says.

For healthy preschoolers in the 3-5 years age range, the Foundation recommends 10 to 13 hours of sleep each day. Between 8 to 9 hours — up to as much as 14 hours — of sleep are deemed appropriate. Less than 8 hours, and no more than 14, are not recommended.

“If you suspect your child isn’t sleeping enough, it’s important to talk to your pediatrician,” suggests the NSF. “If there is an underlying sleep disorder or another medical condition at play, your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist to discuss various treatments options. In many cases, though, sleep deprivation in children can be helped with changes to the environment and habits surrounding bedtime.”

According to the NSF, research shows an early bedtime — between 7-8 p.m. works best for babies and kids through school age — and a consistent, soothing, wind-down routine with no screen time from TVs, tablets and smart phones accommodate better sleep. Tuning out from excitement and and turning off electronics can be the secret to your child falling asleep faster.

“A recent study found that for every hour a child is sedentary — watching TV or reading — it takes an additional three minutes to fall asleep. According to a BBC News article, researchers observed 519 seven-year-olds and found that the majority of children fell asleep in 45 minutes and the average time to fall asleep took 26 minutes,” the NSF says,.

Most parents know the nighttime benefits for preschoolers after a day spent swimming at the pool or playing with other kids at preschool. The more active the children, the more likely they fall asleep faster. And the longer they sleep throughout the night, studies have shown. Mandy Gurney, founder of Millpond Children’s Sleep Clinic, told the BBC that a routine wind-down hour can be essential to achieving a successful bedtime, says the NSF.

New Jammies StripesSuccessful bedtime rituals for preschoolers involve consistent routine that includes taking a warm bath to help kids relax and reading bedtime stories. The Mayo Clinic also agrees that avoiding active play and electronic devices, which might be too stimulating, before bedtime.

“You might give your child a bath, brush his or her teeth, read stories, and say prayers. Praise your child for a specific accomplishment or talk about the day. If you play bedtime music, make sure it’s soothing. Then tuck your child into bed and say good night,” says the clinic. “Experiment to find what works best for you — but once you settle on a routine, follow it consistently every night.”

For those parents of preschoolers who have become frustrated with their child’s bedtime problems, the Mayo Clinic understands that bedtime battles can test a parent’s resolve. Even if you want to give in and let your child fall asleep in front of the TV — or in your bed, the clinic says to stay the course of not creating an expectation for that every night.

“It’s important to hang in there. Be patient and ignore cries and pleas,” the clinic says. “It’s never too late to teach your child good sleeping habits. If your child is pushing the limits, state your expectations and stick to the routine. Eventually, your consistency will pay off in a good night’s sleep for everyone.”

Read more from “Child sleep: Put preschool bedtime problems to rest.”
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