Children and adolescents need at least nine hours of sleep per night. Sleep problems and a lack of sleep can have negative effects on children's performance in school, during extracurricular activities, and in social relationships.
A lack of sleep may cause:
- Accidents and injuries
- Behavior problems
- Mood problems
- Memory, concentration, and learning problems
- Performance problems
- Slower reaction times
Signs of Sleep Problems in Children
Talk to your pediatrician if your child exhibits any of the following signs of a sleep problem:
- Breathing pauses during sleep
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Problems with sleeping through the night
- Difficulty staying awake during the day
- Unexplained decrease in daytime performance
- Unusual events during sleep such as sleepwalking or nightmares
Tips for Improving Your Child's Sleep
- Establish a regular time for bed each night and do not vary from it. Similarly, the waking time should not differ from weekday to weekend by more than one to one and a half hours.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine, such as giving your child a warm bath or reading a story.
- Do not give children any food or drinks with caffeine less than six hours before bedtime.
- Make sure the temperature in the bedroom is comfortable and that the bedroom is dark.
- Make sure the noise level in the house is low.
- Avoid giving children large meals close to bedtime.
- Make after-dinner playtime a relaxing time as too much activity close to bedtime can keep children awake.
- There should be no television, computer, mobile phone, radio, or music playing while the child is going to sleep. TV and video games should be turned off at least one hour prior to bedtime.
- Infants and children should be put to bed when they appear tired but still awake (rather than falling asleep in their parent's arms, or in another room). Parents should avoid getting into bed with a child in order to get them to sleep.
Talk to your child's health care provider if these tips don't help or if you need additional guidance.