Published on in Health Tip of the Week
When do babies start sleeping through the night? What is sleep regression? How much sleep do school-age kids need? Is my teenager napping too much? Sleep questions can keep any parent up at night, whether you have a newborn or big kid at home.
Most recommendations for healthy sleep depend on the age of a child or teen. How much sleep to get, what makes a good bedtime routine, whether to nap during the day, and what’s a good bedtime — the answers change as your child grows, and it can be hard to continuously keep track of it all!
Here, Melisa Moore, PhD, DBSM, a licensed clinical psychologist in CHOP’s Sleep Center within the Division of Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine, offers seven sleep tips that are useful for every age, from infant to teen.
- Have the same bedtime and waketime every day. The circadian clock is the part of the brain that sets the time for sleep and wake. When you have the same schedule, it helps the clock to function properly. Does this mean your sleepy teen needs to wake on weekends at 6 a.m.? No, but they shouldn’t have a bedtime or wake time more than two hours later than on school days. This can lead to trouble falling asleep or feeling sleepy during the day.
- Have a bedtime routine. Whether it’s zipping up a sleepsack and singing a lullaby or taking a shower and brushing teeth, everyone needs a bedtime routine. Routines help prepare the brain for sleep. Pick three to four calming steps that can be done every night and stick to them! For younger children, visually showing the parts of the routine (by drawing or cutting out pictures) helps them to learn the expectations around bedtime.
- Keep the room where your child or teen sleeps dark, cool and quiet. Blackout shades can be useful, and if you have a noisy house or neighborhood, a fan or sound machine can help, too.
- Get as much daylight exposure as possible during the day. Remember the circadian clock? The main thing that sets that clock is sunlight. So, your child or teen should have some outside time during the day, even if the sky is cloudy. Keeping shades open during the day can help, too.
- Get the bulk of sleep at night. Your child or teen’s longest stretch of sleep should be at night. Keep things light and active during the day and dark at night.
- Only fall asleep with something that can be there all night long. Our brains make associations and one of those associations has to do with sleep. Whatever is with you at bedtime should be present all night long or the brain wakes up during the night. So, if your child or teen falls asleep with a bottle or an iPhone, for example, they may wake up for that bottle or iPhone during the night. If it can’t be there all night, consider gradually stopping the habit at bedtime.
- Avoid screens at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. It’s the circadian clock again! Electronics stop the brain from producing melatonin, which is the sleep hormone. In order to keep the circadian clock working right, children and teens should avoid screen time about 30 minutes before getting into bed.
Still having sleep problems? Consider seeking help at CHOP’s Sleep Center if:
- Your child snores or has difficulty breathing
- Your child complains of odd feelings or pain in the legs that interfere with falling asleep or returning to sleep
- Your child’s sleep problem is hindering the sleep or daytime functioning of others in the family
- You’ve been trying to make a change with your child’s sleep but you’re not seeing results
Contributed by: Melisa E. Moore, PhD