Sleep recommendations for children

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Why is sleep important?

Every living creature needs to sleep.  During early development, sleep is the primary activity of the brain. Circadian rhythms, or the sleep-wake cycle, are regulated by light and dark and these rhythms take time to develop.  This is why newborns may experience irregular sleep schedules.  Circadian rhythms begin to develop at about six weeks, and by three to six months most infants have a regular sleep-wake cycle.  By age of two, most children spent more time asleep than awake and overall, a child will spend 40 percent of his or her childhood asleep.  Sleep is especially important for children as it directly impacts mental and physical development.

How many states of sleep are there?

 There are two states of sleep – quiet and active sleep.

Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) or “quiet” sleep. During the deep states of NREM sleep, blood supply to muscles is increased, energy is restored, tissue growth and repair occur and important hormones are released for growth and development.

Rapid Eye Movement(REM) or “active” sleep. During REM sleep, our brains are active and dreaming occurs. Our bodies become immobile, breathing and heart rates are irregular.

How long should my child sleep?

Babies spend 50 percent of their time in each of these states and the sleep cycle is about 50 minutes. At about six months of age, REM sleep comprises about 30 percent of sleep. By the time children reach preschool age, the sleep cycle is about every 90 minutes.

Dr. Barakah Day, pediatrician at Circle C, says, “Most recent recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation for children ages 6 to 13 state they should sleep 9 to 11 hours. So while the chart is a good place to start, each individual child may have slightly different sleep needs. Use the chart as a starting point and adjust based on the individual child while trying to remain in the 9 to 11 hour window. “

How can I help my child sleep?

  • Teach school-aged children about healthy sleep habits.
  • Continue to emphasize need for regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
  • Make child’s bedroom conducive to sleep – dark, cool and quiet.
  • Keep TV and computers out of the bedroom.
  • Avoid caffeine.