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Helping Your Child Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Beth Hess - Wednesday, September 27, 2017
As any parent well knows, sleep-deprived children and adolescents can become moody, irritable and have trouble concentrating in school. Sleep deficits can also cause behavior problems that mimic the symptoms of ADHD, potentially leading to misdiagnosis.

Recent research suggests that there may be other consequences as well. Researchers have found strong links between insufficient sleep and a wide range of adverse outcomes in adolescents, including obesity, poor school performance, behavioral problems and substance use.

Theories abound as to why children and adolescents are not getting enough sleep. A barrage of overstimulation from a multitude of electronic devices, increased stress and early school start times undoubtedly all contribute to sleep deficits. While some things, such as school start-times, are out of a parent’s control, there are things that you can do to promote your child’s sleep:

  • Know how much sleep your child needs and set bed times accordingly:  elementary school-aged children need 10-11 hours of sleep each night; adolescents require 9-9.5 hours.
  • Try to maintain the same wake-up time on weekends as on weekdays.
  • Promote exercise, particularly out-of-doors activities.
  • Strictly limit caffeine intake.  Caffeine can be hidden in many products, such as sodas (other than colas), chocolate, pain relievers and protein bars.
  • Avoid meals close to bedtime.
  • Have consistent bedtime routines. For younger children this may be a bath, for older youth this could include reading time (avoiding books in the horror genre).
  • Establish the rule that all electronics must be turned off at least one hour before bedtime.
  • Create a sleep-promoting environment in your child’s room: a comfortable bed, dark shades, a cool temperature and quiet.
If your child still seems perpetually fatigued, talk to their doctor. There are a number of other factors that can contribute to sleeping difficulties.


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