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Sleep: Helping Your Children—and Yourself—Sleep Well

Overview

Children need about 9 to 14 hours of sleep each night, depending on their age. Teens need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night.footnote 1

A good night's sleep helps your child to grow, to form memories, and to learn. Sleep helps your child stay alert and focused at school and at play.

  • Children who don't get enough sleep over time can have behaviour problems and trouble learning. They may become moody, sad, or angry or not be able to focus.
  • A child's sleep troubles can cause stress for the parent too, who may worry about their child. The parent also may be awake much of the night trying to get a child back to sleep. This lack of sleep can affect the parent's ability to focus during the day.

If you or your child often has trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, talk with the doctor. The doctor can check for any health problems that may be affecting your sleep or your child's sleep.

And you can take steps at home to set a consistent bedtime routine.

How can you help your children and yourself sleep well?

Helping your baby sleep well

Here are some steps you can take to help your baby sleep well.

  • Set up a soothing nighttime routine.

    Give your baby a bath, sing lullabies, read a book, or tell a story.

  • Make sure your baby's sleep area is quiet and dark.

    When your baby is getting sleepy, put them in a crib in a quiet, dark room. This will help your baby learn to go to sleep in a crib.

  • During the night, feed your newborn when they start to wake up.

    Try to feed your baby while your baby is still calm. Hungry cries often start with a whimper and become louder and longer. If you respond before your newborn gets upset, they will feed and go back to sleep more easily.

  • Feed or change your baby quietly.

    Keep the light low. Don't play with or sing to your baby. Put your baby back in the crib as soon as you can.

  • Be consistent.

    If you change your plan for how to handle nighttime crying, make sure that other people who care for your baby know the plan.

Helping your child sleep well

You can help your child sleep well by having a comforting bedtime routine and consistent bedtimes.

  • Set up a bedtime routine.

    A bedtime routine can help your child get ready for bed and sleep. For example, read together, cuddle, and listen to soft music for 15 to 30 minutes before you turn out the lights. Do things in the same order each night so your child knows what to expect.

  • Have your child go to bed at the same time every night.

    Also have your child wake up at the same time every morning. Children who have consistent and regular bedtimes are less likely to have behaviour problems than children who do not have regular bedtimes.

  • Keep your child's bedroom quiet, dark or dimly lit, and cool.

    Keep TVs, computers, and other screens out of your child's room.

  • Limit activities that stimulate your child.

    Try to limit playing and watching screens in the hours closer to bedtime.

  • Avoid reading scary stories and watching scary programs.

    Scary stories and programs can cause your child to worry. Stress may cause nightmares.

  • Do not try to wake your child during a night terror.

    Reassure and hold your child to prevent injury.

  • Take steps to protect a child who sleepwalks.

    If your child sleepwalks, keep the windows locked during sleep time. Block doorways and stairwells to prevent your child from wandering or falling during the night. Try an adjustable baby gate to block these areas.

  • Offer quick comfort to a waking child.

    If your child wakes up and calls for you in the middle of the night, make your response the same each time. Offer quick comfort, but then leave the room.

Helping your teen sleep well

You can help your teen sleep well by encouraging a calming bedtime routine and consistent bedtimes.

  • Encourage a consistent bedtime.

    Talk to your teen about why it's important to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.

  • Help your teen adjust their bedtime.

    If your teen is going to bed at a very late hour, encourage them to change bedtime a little at a time. Suggest that your teen go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until the best bedtime is reached.

  • Help your teen keep the bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.

    It's best to remove the TV from your teen's room. And remind your teen to turn off the computer, cell phone, and other screens.

  • Help your teen to plan homework assignments.

    Managing the homework load can prevent the need to study all night before a test or stay up late to do homework.

  • Ask how you can help your teen sleep better.

    You might offer to wake your teen or to turn on a bright light in the room when it's time to get up. You also could ask if it's okay to check to make sure your teen got up when the alarm went off.

  • Encourage your teen to not have caffeine after 3 p.m.

    Caffeine is found in soda, energy drinks, coffee, tea, and chocolate.

  • Help your teen talk about weight.

    If your teen is worried about being overweight, help them talk to their doctor. Being overweight can be linked with sleep problems.

  • Encourage your teen to be active each day.

    They may like to take a walk with you, ride a bike, or play sports.

  • Help your teen to slow down at the end of the day.

    Remind your teen to avoid activities that energize them right before bedtime. This can include playing video games and other screen use as well as doing sports.

Helping yourself sleep well

Sometimes, things that you do during the day can make it hard to sleep later. Here are some things to try to help avoid trouble sleeping.

  • Limit caffeine.

    Avoid drinking too much coffee, tea, or soda during the day. And don't have any for at least 6 hours before bedtime.

  • Avoid drinking alcohol before bedtime.

    Alcohol can cause you to wake up more often during the night.

  • Try not to smoke or use tobacco, especially in the evening.

    Nicotine can keep you awake.

  • Limit naps during the day.

    It's especially important not to nap close to bedtime.

  • Avoid lying in bed awake for too long.

    If you can't fall asleep or if you wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep within about 20 minutes, get out of bed and go to another room until you feel sleepy.

  • Limit liquids at night.

    Avoid drinking any liquids before going to bed to help prevent waking up often to use the toilet.

References

Citations

  1. Paruthi S, et al. (2016). Recommended amount of sleep for pediatric populations: A consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 12(6): 785–786. DOI: 10.5664/jcsm.5866. Accessed August 16, 2021.

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