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Getting enough sleep

Getting enough sleep

Children need sleep to help them grow and develop healthily.

As parents, we’re very aware of the health risks for our children from everyday habits like too many "treat" foods, too many sugary drinks or not being active enough. But did you know that sleep is also important for children’s health?

Research now shows that not getting enough sleep can be another factor in children becoming overweight, which could lead to heart disease and even cancer as they get older. So let's make bedtime, sleeptime.

Also, too much screen time – whether on TV, games consoles, smartphones or tablets - affects children’s sleep patterns and length of sleep.

Having a regular bedtime routine for your children can be difficult, especially if you’re busy with your own work, household chores, their homework and everything else that parents have to deal with. But it’s so important to have a regular routine at bedtime and it can really help improve their sleep.

Figure out a bedtime routine that suits you and your child and try to stick to it – it helps our body clocks develop into their natural, regular rhythm.

How to set a good bedtime routine for children

  • Have a regular routine for bedtime
  • Having wind-down time (at least 40 minutes) is really important in getting ready for bed, as it helps you all to relax in the evening, so plan ahead. Avoid physical activity during this time. Fit in plenty of activity earlier in the day so that children are physically tired
  • Try to have your main meals two hours before bedtime - some active kids may need a small snack before bed-time too
  • A warm bath can help relax children and help them get ready for rest
  • For younger children, read a story with them or listen to some gentle music
  • For older children, read a book or magazine

Make bedtime screen-free time

  • Devices like TVs, laptops, games consoles, tablets and smartphones affect children’s sleep habits – get in the habit of turning them off at least one hour before bedtime
  • Keep all electronic devices elsewhere; your child’s room should be a calm, relaxing place
  • If your children watch some TV before bedtime, choose something that is calm and relaxing
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment
  • Having a bedroom that’s sleep-friendly can really help – so have it dark, quiet, comfortable and cool
  • Thick curtains or a blackout blind can help with any outside light during the summer months. Just make sure they are installed safely
  • And a comfortable mattress and bed helps too – it all adds to having an environment that’s sleep-friendly

Aim to get enough sleep for your child’s age

Children of different age need different amounts of sleep and while there are no exact amounts, in general, children aged between five and 12 need at least ten hours of sleep - this of course can vary between children.

Aim for:

3 - 5 year olds 11 - 12 hours at night, plus a daytime rest of up to 1 hour
5 -12 year olds 10+ hours
over 12 year olds and teenagers 8 - 9 hours

For babies and toddlers

About 6 months old   10-11 hours at night plus 3 daytime naps (1.5 - 2 hours for 2 of the naps)
About 9 months old 10-12 hours at night plus 2 daytime naps (1.5 - 2 hours)
About 1 year 10-12 hours at night plus 2 daytime naps (1 - 2 hours)
About 2 years  10-12 hours at night plus 1 daytime nap (1.5 - 2 hours)

The connection between sleep and bodyweight

A lot of parents are surprised to learn that there is a connection between sleep and bodyweight

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