Lack of Sleep Can Harm a Child’s Health

The average child sleeps 13 months during the first two years of life. All this sleep helps a baby’s brain develop. As children grow older, they need fewer hours of sleep—10 to 12 hours a night for preschoolers, and at least nine for school-age children—but the importance of sleep doesn’t diminish.

Sleep’s Deep Effects

Sleep helps us solve problems, react quickly, form memories, and learn. Inadequate sleep affects how well kids do in school. It also impacts a child’s physical well-being. The body releases hormones during sleep that aid growth, build muscles, and repair cells and tissues.

A study in Pediatrics found that childhood sleep deficiencies may be linked to future problems, such as decreases in mental functioning that begin as early as adolescence. Increasing evidence also suggests that poor sleep contributes to major health problems, such as obesity.

Tips for Healthy Sleep

What can you do? Foster good sleep habits in your child:

•Set naptime and bedtime schedules for older babies and children. Newborns don’t yet have day and night rhythms, and they need to wake frequently for feedings.

•Schedule quiet time for 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime. Listen to soft music together, or read your child a story. Keep TV and other distracting electronics out of quiet time.

•Establish a bedtime routine for after quiet time. Your baby’s might include activities such as a diaper change and brushing teeth.

•After you tuck your child in, say goodnight, turn off the light, and leave the room.

•Put children to bed awake so that they learn to fall asleep themselves.

Online Medical Reviewer: Desrosiers, Florence MD

Date Last Reviewed: 4/2/2010

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