Mother kisses young daughter on the head while the girl lies in bed holding her teddy bear.

Don't Snooze on Getting Kids the Sleep They Need

Children's Health

Want to establish a bedtime routine for your child but just don’t know where to start? Although the answer doesn’t look the same for everyone, Bayhealth Pediatrician Colleen Allorto, DO, provides tips on how to get your children the sleep they need and create long lasting sleep habits that will benefit them for years to come. Bedtime routines are ideal for any child from infancy through their teen years.

Here are five tips to develop bedtime routines for your child.

  1. Plan the bedtime routine around the amount of sleep they need. The amount of sleep children need is vital for their growth and mental development. Here’s a quick chart to guide parents on the amount of sleep needed based on age. It’s important to keep in mind when planning a bedtime routine.
    • Babies ages 6-12 months = 16-18 hours of sleep per day
    • Toddlers ages 1-2 years = 14 hours of sleep per day, which includes naptimes
    • Children ages 3-5 years = 10-13 hours of sleep per day, which includes naptime
    • Children ages 6-11 years = 9-12 hours of sleep per day
    • Pre-teens and teens ages 12-18 = 8-10 hours of sleep per day
  2. Sleep is essential for our bodies. Helping your child understand the importance of good sleep is a great starting point to developing a bedtime routine. Help them understand just how important getting a good night of restful sleep can be. If our bodies don’t get enough sleep, our brains and bodies don’t have the chance to replenish, resulting in mental health issues, obesity, high blood pressure, and other health and wellness issues.

  3. Find a wind down activity. After dinner, find a quiet and calm way to wind down that you and your child can enjoy. Consider reading a book together, playing a quiet game as a family, or even watching TV. Keep in mind that some television shows are stimulating so it’s best to turn off the TV one hour prior to sleep.

  4.  It is ok for children to have snacks and drinks prior to bedtime. If your child tends to get hungry or thirsty before bedtime, it is ok! If your child is potty trained, drinking 6 ounces of fluids prior to bedtime will not interfere with their sleep. When preparing a snack prior to bedtime, keep in mind that the snacks should be low in sugar. Snacks should be consumed 15-30 minutes prior to bedtime to ensure that digestion does not hinder their ability to fall asleep.

  5. Limit caffeine. Children under the age of 16 shouldn’t consume caffeine. It can negatively affect physical growth and mental development. Older children who consume caffeine should limit the amount they drink so it doesn’t affect their sleep. A good rule of thumb is to avoid caffeine after 2 p.m. Having a cut off time allows the body time to process the caffeine and lessen its effect on sleep.
Dr. Allorto says that the average child won’t resist a bedtime routine. And if there are any issues, it just takes persistence. It generally takes around 21-30 days to stick to a bedtime routine. There are some cases in which children are unable to fully settle down at bedtime. If this is the case, it is a good idea to discuss this with their pediatrician as they can assist in determining the cause and providing solutions to ensure that your child is getting the sleep that they need.

Visit Bayhealth.org/Pediatrics to learn more about Dr. Allorto and the team at Bayhealth Pediatrics, Milford. To make an appointment, call 302-725-3550