Children’s Healthy Sleep Habits
Starting from birth, a child’s brain primarily focuses on sleep. What happens when your child is sleeping? Circadian rhythms, or the sleep-wake cycle, are regulated by levels of lightness or darkness. The rhythms begin to develop at about six weeks, which attributes to a newborn’s irregular sleep schedule, and by three to six months, most infants develop a regular sleep-wake cycle. Sleep is especially important for children as it directly affects mental and physical development. Children’s brains transform learning material into active knowledge while they sleep.
Newborns (1-2 months)
For newborns, sleep during the early months occurs around the clock and the sleep-wake cycle interacts with the need to be fed, changed and nurtured.
Sleep Tips for Newborns
- Observe your baby’s sleep patterns and identify signs of sleepiness.
- Put your baby in the crib when drowsy, not asleep.
- Place your baby to sleep on his/her back with face and head clear of blankets and other soft items.
- Encourage nighttime sleep.
Infants (3-11 months)
By six months of age, nighttime feedings are usually not necessary and many infants sleep through the night; 70-80 percent will do so by nine months of age.
Sleep Tips for Infants
- Develop regular daytime and bedtime schedules.
- Create a consistent and enjoyable bedtime routine.
- Establish a regular “sleep friendly” environment.
- Encourage baby to fall asleep independently and to become a “self-soother”.
Toddlers (1-3 years)
Toddlers need about 12-14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. When they reach about 18 months of age their nap times will decrease to once a day lasting about one to three hours.
Sleep Tips for Toddlers:
- Maintain a daily sleep schedule and consistent bedtime routine.
- Make the bedroom environment the same every night and throughout the night.
- Set limits that are consistent, communicated and enforced.
- Encourage use of a security object such as a blanket or stuffed animal.
Preschoolers (3-5 years)
Preschoolers typically sleep 11-13 hours each night and most do not nap after five years of age. As with toddlers, difficulty falling asleep and waking up during the night are common.
Sleep Tips for Preschoolers
- Maintain a regular and consistent sleep schedule.
- Have a relaxing bedtime routine that ends in the room where the child sleeps.
Children should sleep in the same environment every night: in a cool, quiet, and dark room, without a TV, in order to establish a sleeping pattern. From infants and toddlers to school-aged kids and teens, it is important for parents to know the recommended hours of sleep for their child(ren). While sleep requirements vary from person to person, there are some reasonable, science-based guidelines to help determine whether your child is getting the sleep needed to grow, learn, and play.
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