Long summer days filled with fun activities can take a toll on children, causing some to sleep more than during the school year.
By REBECCA FITZGERALD
Special to The Star
As school nears, it’s also time for children to follow a healthy sleep schedule.
Generally, elementary-school-age children need nine to 11 hours of sleep each night, according to Suzanne Stevens, clinical assistant professor of neurology at the University of Kansas Hospital and director of neurology at KU Hospital’s Sleep Medicine Clinic.
But that’s just an average. There are some children who will only need seven to eight hours, while others may need as many as 12. Whatever the number is, Stevens said the child should feel rested in the morning and alert throughout the day.
But if they aren’t, a nap can be beneficial. It should be limited to no longer than an hour and take place before 4 p.m., Stevens recommended.
“The timing of the nap in the morning or afternoon doesn’t necessarily matter,” she said. “It is nice if you can go with what your body’s telling you and nap when you’re sleepy and not force (it).”
If the child’s poor sleep habits persist, take a look into their environment. Children should avoid spending time in or on their bed when they aren’t sleeping, Stevens said. The bed should be associated with sleeping, not playing video games, reading or other activities.
Children should also avoid using technology before bedtime, Stevens said, as the light and content from those devices are stimulating and make it difficult to rest and fall asleep.
Even reading can stimulate the brain before bedtime, Stevens said. If it’s an exciting story that uncovers a mystery or follows an adventure, it can delay sleep onset.
For a good night’s sleep, Stevens recommended the family implement a nightly routine that begins at least 30 minutes before the desired bedtime. What the routine involves is up to the family, but she suggested calm activities, such as picking out clothing for the next day or talking.
But don’t forget the routine over the weekend, Stevens advised. The child should wake up within an hour or two of their weekday wake-up time.
“As difficult as that is, maintaining their sleep schedule will somewhat help embed that in the kids’ brains,” Stevens said.
As children grow up, it’s normal for their sleep needs to diminish. Averages for adolescents are nine to 10 hours and for young adults, seven to eight, Stevens said.
But if your child needs more sleep, Stevens said that could be a sign of a sleep disorder. Other signs include snoring, pauses without breathing during sleep, leg kicking during sleep, sleepwalking, trouble falling asleep, restlessness in legs and falling asleep during the daytime when doing passive activities, such as listening to a lecture or watching a movie.