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Raising Fit Kids: Healthy Nurtition, Exercise, and Weight

  This content is selected and controlled by WebMD's editorial staff in collaboration with Sanford Health Systems.

Sleep has a big impact on health. Kids and teens need enough sleep to help them grow, ward off sickness, think clearly and remember things, and fend off bad moods. Recently there has also been research focused on whether getting enough sleep can help kids keep their weight within healthy ranges. Some studies have shown that kids who don't get enough sleep -- especially younger kids and boys -- may have a greater risk of being overweight.

Though it's still being studied, getting enough sleep has other clear roles in helping kids stay fit. Kids and teens who are well-rested are more likely to have the energy needed for exercise and being active. Additionally, getting enough sleep can help your child learn better and have better memory. When you've gotten enough sleep -- no matter what your age -- you're also more likely to make healthy eating choices. When you're well-rested, you can remember your healthy eating goals and have the energy to follow through by taking the extra moment to choose nutritious food.

But starting from a young age, we want to cram in as much as possible into each day. Who hasn't seen a baby fighting sleep to the point of falling asleep in their plate of food or at play? The trend continues as kids get older and beg to stay up for another TV show. And teens stay online texting friends until all hours if no limits are set.

It's up to you as a parent to encourage enough sleep for kids to help keep them healthy, active, and happy. The trick is to knowing how much sleep kids need based on their ages.

Sleep for Kids: How Many Hours of Sleep Do Kids Need?

Sleep needs vary from child to child, but the following are general guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation:

  • 1 to 2 months old: 10 1/2 to 18 hours per day
  • 3 to 11 months old: 9 to 12 hours per day  
  • 1 to 3 years old: 12 to 14 hours per day
  • 3 to 5 years old: 11 to 13 hours per day
  • 5 to 12 years old: 10 to 11 hours per day
  • 12 to 18 years old: at least 8 1/2 hours per day

How Parents Can Help Ensure Sleep for Kids and Teens

If your child needs sleep help, the good news is that parent interventions are almost always effective. Here are some tried-and-true methods to ease the way to sleep for kids.

  • Power down. "Make sure kids are in sleep mode and prepared for bed at the proper time," says Ronald Becker, MD, a pediatrician at the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children's Hospital Boston. Turn off electronics at least one hour before bedtime, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. If your child has a TV in her bedroom, seriously consider moving it out. Research shows that kids who have a television in their bedrooms tend to sleep less.
  • Create a calming nighttime routine. Winding down each night with the same calm routine -- bath, book, tooth brushing -- signals that it's time for sleep, especially for younger children and kids who have more than one home.
  • Be consistent with bedtime and rising. Don't relax sleep rules on weekends or for homework. "If kids are permitted to fight off sleep once, it's going to increase their interest in doing so again," Becker says.

 

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