The Importance of Sleep Hygiene

What is sleep hygiene?

Sleep hygiene consists of a variety of practices and habits which are necessary in order to have quality sleep as well as full daytime alertness.

Why is sleep hygiene important?

Sleep hygiene is extremely important in the everyday health of a family.  If children aren’t sleeping well, parents aren’t sleeping well.  Once this cycle starts it is difficult to break out of because everyone is so tired that no one can function properly.  Furthermore, poor sleep hygiene often goes unnoticed because poor sleep hygiene symptoms in children are commonly associated with or disregarded as normal child behavior and/or normal child misbehavior; however, problematic children may simply need more sleep.

What are the consequences of poor sleep hygiene? 

Common symptoms associated with poor sleep hygiene are (C., 2016; Hilt, 2014):

  • night time fears
  • mood changes
  • behavior problems
  • cognitive disfunction
  • daydreaming
  • headaches
  • difficulty sleeping alone
  • excessive daytime sleepiness
  • frequent napping
  • bedwetting
  • frequent night time awakenings

Common developmental problems associated with prolonged poor sleep hygiene are (C., 2016; Hilt, 2014):

  • poor grades
  • poor self esteem
  • depression
  • weight gain/weight loss
  • poor appetite
  • growth problems
  • headaches/migraines
  • hyperactivity
  • poor impulse control
  • attention deficits
  • prone to injury
  • cognitive and social development delays

How do children’s sleep need change over time?

Children need varying amounts of sleep depending on their age.  Typically as children get older they need less sleep per day while younger children need more sleep per day.  Younger children may spread their sleep throughout the day and night rather than sleeping the full time during the night (Kids and Sleep, 2016).  This is why younger children typically need naps.  By 4-12 months old children begin to consolidate their sleeping habits but may still take a nap or two during the day until they are older (Kids and Sleep, 2016).  Children who don’t take naps may simply need an earlier bedtime if they are not sleeping long enough at night.  While establishing routine, children who lay in bed longer than an hour without falling asleep may need to get up for 30 minutes before trying to fall asleep again (Schuster, 2017).  It’s also important to remember that different children may need different bedtime routines (Schuster, 2017).  It may take some time to find what works best for your family.

How much sleep do children need?

Suggested amounts of sleep by age:

  • 1-4 weeks = 15-16 hrs per day
  • 1-4 months = 14-15 hrs per day
  • 4-12 months = 14-15 hrs per day
  • 1-3 yrs = 12-14 hrs per day
  • 3-6 yrs = 10-12 hrs per day
  • 7-12 yrs = 10-11 hrs per day
  • 12-18 yrs = 8-9.5 hrs per day

Why do children typically not get enough sleep?

Most children do not get enough sleep.  Because symptoms of sleep deprivation are counter intuitive, parents tend to think children are not yet tired and therefore don’t start bedtime routines early enough.  Signs of tiredness in children are the opposite of what parents expect.  When children are tired they often become hyperactive which causes parents to think they aren’t tired at all.  Because parents don’t want to attempt to put a child to bed who isn’t tired, many parents find themselves waiting for their children to show more obvious signs of tiredness before they put them to bed.  However, parents will find that establishing earlier bedtime routines makes bedtime easier on both parents and children.

How can I help my child establish good sleep hygiene?

Establishing good sleep hygiene consists of (C., 2016; Hilt, 2014):

  • consistent bed times
  • consistent wake up times
  • a consistent bedtime routine
  • a comfortable room

What are some guidelines to help establish good sleep hygiene?

  • Consistent bed times and wake times
    • Make note of how many hours of sleep children need
    • Calculate appropriate bed times and wake times
    • Establish a bed time and stick to it every night, even weekends
    • Establish a wake time and stick to it every morning, even weekends
  • Consistent bedtime routine
    • Establish a bedtime routine (i.e. quiet play, bath, story, music, bed)
    • Stick to the same routine every night no matter how boring it may seem
    • Schedule bedtime routines to start at least 1 hour before bed to avoid stimulating activities that could interfere with ability to fall asleep
  • Comfortable room
    • eliminate all light except a dim night light if needed
    • room should be cool
    • try to minimize distractions (i.e. toys, tv, computer)

In conclusion … 

In order for parents to be capable of functioning at their best, they need good sleep hygiene.  This means that it is essential for children to have good sleep hygiene.  In order for children to establish good sleep hygiene habits it is important to have a bedtime routine that is followed consistently, consistent wake times, and that children have a comfortable room to sleep in.  After following a consistent sleep hygiene regimen for at least 21 days, parents are certain to notice a change in the overall efficiency, happiness, and health of their family life.

References

C. (2016). Sleep Hygiene for Children . Retrieved January 10, 2017, from http://www.choc.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Sleep-Hygiene-Children-Handout.pdf

Hilt, R., MD. (2014). Sleep Hygiene For Children . Retrieved January 10, 2017, from www.seattlechildrens.org/pdf/PE1066.pdf

Kids and Sleep. (2016). Retrieved January 10, 2017, from http://sleephygiene.web.unc.edu

Schuster, K., PsyD. (2017). Encouraging Good Sleep Habits. Retrieved January 10, 2017, from https://childmind.org/article/encouraging-good-sleep-habits/

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