Sleep is important for everyone, but particularly for children, who are rapidly developing both mentally and physically. According to the National Sleep Foundation, kids spend 40% of their childhoods asleep.
Choosing the right bedtime for your child does involve a bit of calculation and patience, but here are some general guidelines you can follow.
Determine how much sleep your child needs
The amount of sleep your child needs at night depends on their age. Considering daytime naps, this is how much sleep each age group typically needs:
- Infants from four to 11 months: 9-11 hours at night, 3-6 hours during the day
- Toddlers: 10-12 hours at night, 1-3 hours during the day
- Preschoolers: 10-13 hours at night, 0-2.5 hours during the day
Because every family and every child is different, these times are a guide rather than a strict rule.
Establish a set bedtime and wake-up time
Choosing the same time each day to put your child to bed and wake them up is a good idea, as it will help them understand what’s expected of them, and give them a predictable routine to follow. According to a recent study by London’s University College, irregular bedtimes are associated with behaviors such as hyperactivity, acting out, and not getting along with others. However, these behaviors are often reversible when the child is on a regular sleep schedule.
One way you can help to set your child’s regular bedtime is to watch their actions for sleep cues. These cues include rubbing their eyes, yawning, acting fussy, crying, or having difficulty focusing. Finding out when your child is naturally ready for sleep in the evening can help you pick a regular bedtime that will be easier to stick to.
Set up a nighttime routine
A regular and consistent bedtime routine is beneficial for everyone, children included. For toddlers and preschoolers, a bedtime routine is a series of cues that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep.
The ideal nighttime routine varies with each child and family, but the key is to make each activity relaxing. Some examples of good bedtime activities for children include:
- Giving your child a bath
- Brushing their teeth and washing their face
- Reading together
- Singing a lullaby
- Choosing pyjamas together
- Talking quietly together about the day
- Giving your child a gentle massage
Successful bedtime routines are consistent and soothing, helping your child drift off to sleep happily. With these tips, you can help to choose the right bedtime to set your child up for a happy and fun day ahead.