An article in yesterday’s WSJ
New research suggests that for young children, having a regular and consistent bed time affects cognitive performance years later.
So how do you get your child to get to sleep at a regular time?
Experts say school-age children — kindergarten through eighth-grade — should be getting about 10 hours of sleep while three- and four-year-olds might need 11 to 13 hours, including daytime naps.
One trap to avoid is putting your child to bed too early. They may not be able to fall asleep, so don’t be surprised when they’re up at the crack of dawn. Putting them down too late, of course, can make it harder for them to fall asleep as well, since they may be overtired.
1. Bed time routines are key. Judith Owens, director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., says three to four calming and enjoyable activities (bath time, reading a book) make for a routine. Shalini Paruthi, director of the pediatric sleep and research center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center at Saint Louis University, says having a routine, even on weekends and in the summer, is important, even if it’s short. “Try to do the usual bedtime routine, just a little faster,” she said.
2. Avoid electronics in the evening, particularly an hour before bedtime or in the bedroom, says Dr. Owens. The light from the screens can inhibit normal melatonin production in the evening, says Dr. Paruthi.
3. Try to keep bedtimes within one hour every night – even on weekends and during the summer. Even more important, wake-up times should be within an hour every day.
4. Make sure your child doesn’t have a sleep disorder. Dr. Paruthi says two frequent and easily treatable disorders are obstructive sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.
5. Keep the bedroom dark and quiet (night lights are OK). The temperatures should be between 65 and 72 degrees.
6. Finally, try not to use bed time as a punishment and staying up as a reward, says Dr. Owens. It sends the wrong message to children.