The Importance of a Regular Bedtime in Early Childhood
When it comes to children, routines are important; and bedtime and sleep routines are one of the most important routines we can implement in a child’s life. We know that there will be times when a bedtime routine gets thrown out the window, but establishing and maintaining good sleep habits early can help your child fall asleep more quickly and calmly, stay asleep and make sure they wake up refreshed, rested and ready to start the day.
Why is a Regular Bedtime Important?
As adults, we know that if we go to bed at the optimum time for our bodies, we wake up more rested and able to focus on the tasks we need to complete that day. Children are the same. Sleep is important to their development processes and without enough sleep over a long period of time, they can quickly fall behind academically and developmentally.
A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health in 2013 found that, by age 7, children without a regular bedtime had lower cognitive test scores in reading, maths and spatial abilities in girls but not in boys. However, non-regular bedtimes at age 3, in both boys and girls, were associated with lower reading, maths and spatial scores. This led researchers to conclude that consistent bedtimes during early childhood are related to better cognitive performance as they get older. Irregular bedtimes can lead to sleep deprivation which in turn can affect the brain development of children in their crucial development period.
Like in adults, the amount of sleep your child needs is individual for them, so there is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to sleep time. However, there are some general guidelines of how much sleep your child should get at different ages.
How Much Sleep Does My Child Need?
The Raising Children Networks notes the recommended amount of sleep for various ages as follows:
Children under 12 months: Up to 3 months, your baby will likely sleep for 16-20 hours in a 24-hour period with wakes of every 2-4 hours to bed fed. From 3 – 6 months, they need around 10-18 hours sleep with an average of 14 hours, and from 6 – 12 months, most babies will still need around 14 hours in a 24-hour period spread between 1-2 naps and overnight. From 12 – 18 months you will start to see babies sleeping 13-15 hours over a 24-hour period.
Toddlers will generally have between 12-13 hours sleep which tends to be made up of 10 – 12 hours overnight and a 1 – 2-hour nap during the day.
Preschool-aged children tend to need 11 – 13 hours sleep at night. Some 3 – 5-year-olds will still need a nap during the day.
School-aged children will need 10 – 11 hours of sleep overnight.
Tips on Setting a Regular Bedtime
Make sleep a priority for the whole family
Getting enough sleep when your children are young is tough, but it is important the whole family is getting the right amount of sleep. Sit down and decide on how much sleep each family member needs and determine your bedtime schedule. If anyone has any sleep problems, make sure you have the addressed with your family GP.
Recognise sleep issues early
Sleep issues can be a major cause of a child not wanting to go to bed at a regular time. While waking at night is considered normal with babies, once children hit that 3 – 4-year-old mark, a good percentage of them should be sleeping through the night. If you suspect your child might have sleep issues, some signs to look out for including difficulty falling asleep, snoring, having trouble breathing while asleep, resisting going to bed, and heavy breathing. During the day you may notice your child is sleepy, overtired or unreasonably cranky and upset. See a GP when you do notice these signs to get on top of any sleep issues early.
Consistency and Routine
Children love routine. Routines help set expectations for your child, as well as helping to learn good habits. Your child will know the order things happen, making it much easier for them to fall asleep. By setting bedtimes and wake times, keeping your routine relatively consistent is certainly going to help with better sleep.
Work together as a family
Working with your partner and other caregivers to your children is essential when establishing regular bedtimes. Everyone who looks after your child should be aware of their bedtime and their routine, whether it’s the grandparents or your children’s early childhood educators. Being consistent each day will help your child get better sleep.
Setting the room
Most children sleep better when their room is the same temperature and darkness both day and night. Ensure your child is dressed for the room temperature, adding and removing clothing, sleep bags, sheets and blankets where needed. If your child prefers a room that is quite dark, block out curtains can assist.
Early childhood is such a crucial development time for your child. Establishing regular bedtimes early on can help ensure better outcomes later in life. Each year, Treasured Tots runs a free sleep workshop for our families and community. This session is run by an experienced sleep consultant because we truly value how important a good night’s sleep can be for the whole family. Enquire now to find out when our next workshop is being held.
If you’re looking for an early education team that can help assist in keeping your sleep routine outside the home, talk to us here at Treasured Tots.
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