Q: Heading into the start of the new school year, I always have a difficult time getting my kids back on a schedule. How much time should I actually schedule for my kids to be getting enough sleep? – Cassie from Chandler
A: It’s a struggle that has gone on since time immemorial: when parents think bedtime is and when kids think bedtime should be. “But I’m not sleepy!” is the rally cry of the oppressed. Tears, wails, and begging are their weapons. For most parents, it’s a war of wills every night. And it’s exhausting.
How can parents turn this battle into something a little more enjoyable? Establish a routine. Children thrive on knowing expectations. When they can expect a certain progression of events, they tend to be more accepting of the end result – even if it ends with the dreaded bedtime.
For those of us with small children, some easy tips to establishing a bedtime routine include brushing teeth, putting on PJs, reading or telling a story, singing, or reviewing the highlights of the day. I have a friend who gives his daughter a bath every night before PJs, and then reads a book. He said it was initially a bit of a challenge, but he has come to cherish this time with her away from the busyness of life and she now goes to bed without all of the pleading and whining. In our family, we put on PJs, read a book, sing songs, and pray before bedtime. It’s calming and it helps the kids unwind before they have to go to sleep.
For kids (and adults, too), the general recommendation is to turn off all screens at least 30 minutes before bed, do not allow screens in bedrooms, and keep bedtime consistent during the week and over the weekend. When kids do not get enough sleep, they are at an increased risk for injuries in sports, hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity and depression.
Teenagers can certainly be a little trickier when it comes to sleep. Their biological sleep patterns undergo a shift toward sleeping later and waking later. It’s not uncommon for teens to be unable to fall asleep before 11 p.m.. However, establishing a routine also works for teenagers. They thrive on routines. There should not be any computers or screens in their rooms. A mom I know has her kids deposit their phones in a basket in the kitchen every night at 9 p.m. The teens can then stay up and read, play games, talk with the family, or go for an evening run, but they are not able to have screen time after 9 p.m.
On average, the following is the recommended amount of sleep by age:
- Infants 4 months to 12 months should sleep 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
- Children 1 to 2 years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
- Children 3 to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
- Children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep 9 to 12 hours per 24 hours
- Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours per 24 hours
If you haven’t yet established a bedtime routine, now is the perfect time to start. Do your best to stay consistent and find a routine that works for your family. Making bedtime a natural progression of the evening can lead to a lot less stress for everyone and will hopefully lead to a little more sleep.
Benjamin Ihms, D.O., is a Family Medicine Physician for Desert Grove Family Medical at 10238 E. Hampton Ave., Suite 508 in Mesa and is accepting new patients. Desert Grove Family Medical, with five locations in the East Valley, provides full-service primary care services from checkups and immunizations to sudden illness and sports injuries. Visit www.desertgrove.net or call 480-834-7546.