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home  > health and wellness

Health and Wellness Articles
November / December 2006

Are Our Kids Sleeping Enough?

By: Dr. Bhumi Upadhyay, Northeast Pediatrics

School is in full gear and the holidays are here.  There is homework, after school activities, sports, parties, and much more to do.  When will our kids sleep and is it enough?

Sleep is extremely important for the growing child.  Children who get adequate sleep do better in school, have less behavior problems, and are mentally and physically more healthy.  Studies have shown that 50% of school aged children have trouble waking up in the morning and 30% stay up past their bedtime 2-4 times a week without parental permission.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, 1-3 year olds need 12-14 hours of sleep daily, 3-5 year olds need 11-13 hours daily and 5-12 year olds need 10-11 hours daily.

Since sleep is so important to the developmental of the child, good sleep habits should be established at a young age and parents should monitor their children’s sleeping environments.  The two most common sleep problems are getting to bed and night awakenings.

Parents should set a bedtime routine to help the child get to bed. Routines should include bathing, brushing teeth, reading books together, hugs and kisses and goodnights.  Also teach your child that when the clock says “this”  it is time for bed.  Also give 10 minute warnings for bath time or reading time.  An hour prior to bedtime should be calming- No television, no noisy activities. The bedtime should be the same time everyday.  The child will be confused and tired if the times are altered from day to day.

For the school aged child, the routine is still important, along with limits on caffeine intake, and television shows that are violent or scary.  This even includes stories about natural disasters, death of family members or other realistic threats or dangers that can happen.

Night awakenings are more common in children because parents feel that they need to help the child soothe himself to sleep.  Parents need to start in infancy to put the child in the crib while still drowsy, not after the child has fallen asleep in parent’s arm.  The child should also be put into the crib after a feeding, not put him to sleep with a feeding.  This will teach the child to soothe himself to sleep.  As the child gets older and there are still issues with night awakenings, parents need to let the child try to soothe himself when he wakes up.  Let the child cry it out a little.  If the child continues to cry, the parents should go in the room and just gently pat him and say something positive like “mommy (or daddy) loves you.”  For the older toddler, a transitional object should be introduced that he can cuddle with at night.  This object should read stories with you and the child and be small enough to take places.

With the following suggestions, a child should have no trouble going to bed and staying asleep. Parents need to be consistent with bedtimes and set limits for the child to ensure a healthy growing child.

Dr. Bhumi Upadhyay, a Board Certified Pediatrician and active member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, graduated from the University of Miami six year Honors Program in Medicine. If you have questions about this article or your child email Dr. Bhumi at drbhumi@northeastkids.com.  We are accepting new patients please call to get to know the doctor 526-PEDS

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