A Guide to Supporting Your Child’s Nighttime Sleep
Written by: Caitlyn Chun
It’s hard to overstate the importance of sleep! Research with children has shown that sleep and sleep routines are associated with language development, literacy, emotional and behavioral regulation, parent-child attachment, and family functioning. Sleep affects a child’s development!
The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following amounts of sleep per day:
• Newborns (0-3 months) — 14 to 17 hours
• Infants (4-11 months) — 12 to 15 hours
• Toddlers (1-2 years) — 11 to 14 hours
• Preschoolers (3-5 years) — 10 to 13 hours
• School-aged children (6 to 13 years) — 9 to 11 hours
• Teenagers (14 to 17 years) — 8 to 10 hours
Tips to a Better Night’s Sleep
1. Get moving during the day
Regular exercise is a fantastic way to encourage better sleep. To help your child wind down from the day, exercise should be avoided in the 3 hours before bedtime.
2. Maintain a consistent nighttime routine and bedtime for your child
Prepare for bed at the same time each night. Repeat the same activities in the same order each night. For example, your child’s routine might consist of bathing, changing into their pajamas, brushing teeth, and listening to a bedtime story. Sticking to a consistent routine of calming activities can give your child a sense of predictability and security around bedtime.
3. Limit screen time before sleepingLimit screen time before sleeping
Research indicates that the use of screen media (computers, phones, tablets, and video game consoles) close to bedtime is related to delayed bedtimes, fewer hours slept, and to poor sleep quality for children and youth. Make a habit to put away screens for an hour before bedtime and to keep devices out of bedrooms as much as possible.
4. Read bedtime stories together
Reading stories about appropriate bedtime behavior can help your child to understand your expectations. If your child has nighttime fears, it can help to read books that deal positively with the dark, for example. Any book reading at bedtime is a great way to increase relaxing quality time with you!
5. Adjust the environment for sleeping
A dark, quiet room is ideal to encourage restful sleep. A night-light can be used to provide soft lighting if your child is afraid of the dark. It is helpful to be mindful of the noise and the light around your child when they are sleeping.
6. Maintain a consistent wake time
Waking up at the same time each day will help to maintain your child’s sleep schedule. Letting your child “catch up” on sleep in the morning can push your child’s sleep schedule back, resulting in later bedtimes. When your child wakes up at the same time each day, they will be ready to sleep at their scheduled bedtime.
• Zero to Three: Sleep Struggles? We’ve got Resources
• Nationwide Children’s: Healthy Sleep Habits for Infants and Toddlers
• Nationwide Children’s: Healthy Sleep Habits for Older Children and Teens
• Seattle Children’s Hospital: Resources for Sleep Conditions (selected resources available in Spanish and Vietnamese)
Bedtime Story Resources
• Bedtime Story Prompts for Parents
• StoryBerries: Free Bedtime Stories