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How to Keep Kids on a Sleep Schedule

English: Six year old boy reading "Diary ...

Follow these tips to keep your child on a sleep schedule. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Parents everywhere know how important it is for kids to get a good night’s sleep.  Tired toddlers are cranky, tired tweens are sullen, and tired teens can exhibit any combination of undesirable behaviors.  Children of all ages need more sleep than most people think.  The National Sleep Foundation says that elementary age children need 10-11 hours and teens need 8.5- 9.25 every night.  Depending on their age, it can be difficult to get them to go to bed, to get them to stay in bed, and even to get them to go to sleep.  When they are little, they don’t want to miss anything and fight the urge to fall asleep.  As they get older, friends, video games, laptops, and cell phones get tossed into the mix.  Between their internal clocks and outside influences, keeping kids on a sleep schedule can feel like an impossible task, no matter what age they are or stage they are in.


Here are some tips and tricks to help keep your kids on a sleep schedule and get them the sleep they need to do their best in school and stay healthy.


1.     Set Schedule

The most important thing you can do to help your kids get the sleep they need is to set a bedtime that is the same every night and wake them up at the same time every day.  This includes weekends, holidays, and vacations.  Our bodies respond to routines and keeping a set schedule enables kids to fall asleep faster and get the right amount of sleep on a regular basis.


2.     Regular Routine

Work with your child to create a bedtime routine that can include a small snack, bath time, brushing teeth, putting on PJs, story time or time for them to read, and lights out.  Following a routine helps kids mentally prepare for bedtime and can make it easier to stay on schedule.  For older kids, routines can be just as important even if they are different.  Consistency is really the key to creating a routine that will help get them to bed on time and ready to sleep.


3.     Conducive Climate

Make sure your child’s bedroom is conducive to sleep.  Things like bedding, lights, sounds, and temperature can have a big impact on the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep all night.  Children need a comfortable bed in a dark, cool, quiet room to get a good night’s sleep.


4.     Evict Electronics

If you want to keep kids on a sound sleep schedule, make their bedroom an electronics-free zone.  TVs, laptops, Game Boys, and even iPods give off a glow that can trick our bodies into believing that it is daytime and make it difficult to fall asleep.  Tweens and teens who spend considerable amounts of their time texting their friends may have difficulty ignoring incoming messages long enough to fall asleep.   The last thing most kids need at bed time is something distracting them from falling asleep.


If you are struggling to keep kids on a schedule at night, look to see if there are patterns of behavior that are contributing to their unwillingness to go to bed.  Is the rest of the family staying up to watch something on TV that the child doesn’t want to miss?  Have they just gotten home from dance class or football practice and are too amped up to relax?  Figuring out what is behind your child’s desire to stay up can help you determine the right way to remove that obstruction and get your kids to bed without a battle.


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