As a child, I remember coming in the house when the street lights came on and going to bed at 7 pm.
My siblings and I thought this time was too early, especially when it was bright and sunny outside. I would toss and turn, then would eventually doze off to sleep. Of course, my parents had a rationale for this bedtime pattern — no tired kids in the morning!
The American Academy of Pediatric Physicians recommends the following bedtime routines by age:
For school-aged children, a quick tidy-up is part of the bedtime routine — putting books and toys back on shelves and clothes in drawers and closets. Their room doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s more pleasant to rest and read or listen to music and stories in a tidy environment, and mornings go more smoothly if needed objects are where they belong and thus easy to find.
By the middle-school years, the weekend routine is a bit less regimented than the one for school nights, and weekend bedtimes can be later. Lights can go out at different times for different children in the family, depending on how much sleep they need.
However, while your child may sleep late the next morning, try to keep weekend wake-ups within an hour or so of the usual time, especially if your child is not a creature of habit by nature. Left to sleep too long, in only a few days a vulnerable child can shift his sleep phase (periods of waking and sleeping) in such a way that he has trouble getting back on his usual schedule. Ability to concentrate at school may suffer due to drowsiness.
How much sleep do kids need?
Doctors recommend that children ages three to six need about 10-12 hours of sleep each day. Seven-12 years old: 10-11 hours per day.
At these ages, with social, school and family activities, bedtimes gradually become later and later, with most 12-year-olds going to bed at about nine pm. There is still a wide range of bedtimes from 7:30 to 10 p.m., as well as total sleep times, from nine to 12 hours. The average is only about nine hours.
For 12 to 18 year olds, eight to nine hours per day is recommended.
Sleep needs remain just as vital to health and well-being for teenagers as when they were younger. Not getting enough sleep can lead to weight gain, as well as having a negative impact on physical and emotional health.
It turns out that many teenagers need more sleep than in previous years. Yet social pressures cause many teenagers to not get the proper amount of sleep.
What can parents do?
Keep routines simple to help your kids unwind. Pediatrician Dr. Jennie Shu recommends creating a nightly routine that helps kids wind down, like the 4 Bs: bathing, brushing teeth, books, and bedtime.
Studies by the University of Illinois suggest the following actions are effective:
- Start early and give the child a little time to wind down. You can say, “I’ll set the timer and when it rings, it’s time for your bath.”
- Follow bath time and brushing of teeth with some quiet play or snuggle up and read books to your child. Choose relaxing stories or relaxing music.
- Avoid letting the child fall asleep in front of the TV. Children sleep best if they fall asleep in the same place they wake up.
- Spend some time talking about the day and about the fun you had together or what you did apart. Many parents make this their one-on-one time spent with each child.
- Give your child a kiss, provide a cheerful word, and tell them how much you love them.
- Try to remain calm after the third “I need a drink” or “I have to use the bathroom.” If you start to lose control, your child will also lose control.
Tammy McIntyre, M.Ed. is a workforce development consultant providing individuals and small businesses with career development services. She welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.