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Family and Kids Health

Your child's ABZzzz - kids and sleep

Helping your kids develop good sleep habits early on will benefit them throughout their lives and may even cut down on those pesky squabbles about going to bed and getting up on time.

Here are answers to some common questions parents have about their kids and sleep:

Q. Why is sleep so important for kids?

A. Your child may look like a peaceful angel when she's asleep but there's a lot going on. Her body is repairing itself and her physiological processes are recuperating. As a result, a good night's sleep can help her fight off illness and stay healthy. Being well rested also can help keep her mood up, and support good performance in all areas of her life, whether in school, at the piano or on the soccer field.

Q. What can we do to help our child get a good night's sleep?

A. Teach your child healthy sleep habits:
  • Set a regular bedtime and give your child about 30 minutes advance notice.
  • Establish bedtime rituals, such as brushing teeth, reading a story and, for young children, snuggling with a favorite stuffed toy.
  • Take the TV and video games out of the bedroom.
  • Make sure the bedroom is cool and well-ventilated.
  • Don't give your child caffeinated beverages, such as cola or hot chocolate.

Q. My preschooler gets up about five times after we put him to bed. We need some adult time in the evening. Any tips?

A. When your child gets up, promptly return him to his room with minimal comments. Avoid getting into a conversation or urging him to go back to bed. Repeat the process until your child finally settles into bed. Tell him if he wakes up in the middle of the night and can't go back to sleep, he can play quietly in his room until he's sleepy again. Teaching a child to self-soothe and to entertain himself can provide valuable lifetime skills. Be sure to praise him the mornings after he stays in his room all night.

Q. My kids are all in school now. How much sleep do they need?

A. School-aged children need between 9 and 12 hours of sleep at night. If you have to keep after your child to get up in the morning, or if you discover her cranky and dozing off during the day, or "crashing" some evenings much earlier than bedtime, she's probably not getting enough sleep.

Mark Yarshen, DO, an Edward Medical Group physician at the Edward Healthcare Center in Oswego, contributed to this article.


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