As summer winds down, new pencils, backpacks and the perfect back-to-school outfit are replacing swimsuits and flip-flops. As you prepare your children for the start of a new school year, it is important to remember that an established nighttime routine is also essential.
For children between the ages of 3 and 5, between 11 and 13 hours of sleep per night is recommended. If your child repeatedly awakens during the night, poor sleep habits might be to blame. Nighttime fears and nightmares are part of normal development and are common for this age group. Sleepwalking and sleep terrors also peak during this time.
▪ Develop a regular sleep schedule, where your child wakes and goes to bed about the same time each day.
▪ Establish a bedtime routine that includes calming and enjoyable activities such as a bath and bedtime stories.
▪ Make sure your child’s room is comfortable, dark, cool and quiet.
▪ Contact your child’s physician if he or she appears to have any problem with breathing, snoring, has unusual nighttime awakenings, has difficulty staying asleep or if sleep problems are affecting behavior throughout the day.
For children between the ages of 6 and 12, between 10 and 11 hours of sleep per night is recommended. As school obligations and sporting activities become more regular, not getting enough sleep is common for this age group. Sleepwalking, sleep terrors, teeth grinding, nighttime fears, snoring and noisy breathing are also common in school-aged children. If your child shows signs of irritable mood, hyperactive behavior or poor attention and memory function, sleep deprivation may be the culprit.
▪ Developing a regular sleep schedule, where your child wakes and goes to bed about the same time each day, is increasingly important for this age group.
▪ Avoid caffeine found in soda, iced tea and coffee, and other products that may affect your child’s ability to get a good night’s sleep.
▪ Be sure to turn off televisions, radios, computers and handheld games at least 30 minutes before bedtime. These stimulating activities can cause sleep problems.
▪ Maintain a consistent bedtime routine, and try including a few minutes of one-on-one time with a parent to help keep communication clear.
▪ Set limits to avoid conflict. If your child stalls at bedtime, make sure they know what time the lights will be turned out at night, and as a parent, stay consistent with this each evening.
▪ Contact your child’s physician if he or she has difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, snores, experiences unusual awakenings or has sleep problems that cause disruption during the day.
The Mount Nittany Health Sleep Management Program offers diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders that specifically affect children. For more information or to schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist, call 231-7277.
John Solic, MD, is a provider with Mount Nittany Physician Group Pulmonary Medicine, and a sleep medicine specialist.