Sleep is one of the most fundamental aspects of our health. We consider what to feed our families, what chemicals or ideas to expose them to, and what sort of activities we should encourage — but some of the most important hours for our health are the most uneventful. To really take control of our family’s health, we need to focus on our sleep habits.
When Should They Sleep?
Sleep schedules are always difficult to enforce, no matter how old your kids are. It’s a struggle, regardless of how early you make it. You might think that it makes no difference what time your kids hit the sack, as long as they get enough snooze in the end. However, recent evidence suggests that it does matter; it actually affects the quality of sleep that you’re getting. Once kids hit adolescence, they might feel the urge to go to sleep later in the night. As long as they are still getting their hours, they assume that’s fine.
Regardless of their age, though, their bedtime should be the same every night. Even though many will want to stay up later for special occasions, it’s essential that they stick to their sleep schedule. This will let them get the best rest possible and be ready for the next day. Although it might be impossible to achieve this 100 percent of the time, try to be consistent.
If you’re having trouble getting them to bed on time, limit their screen time, especially later in the evening. Additionally, make sure they’re getting enough physical activity so that they’re actually tired. Getting them involved in physical activities, including extracurricular sports, will help use up that endless energy and get them away from a screen.
How Long Should They Sleep?
This is obviously dependent upon their age. Your kids might need a little more or a little less, but there are some pretty established guidelines. The National Sleep Foundation recommends:
- 12-18 hours for newborns
- 12-14 hours for toddlers
- 11-13 hours for 3-5 year olds
- 10-11 hours for 5- 10 years old
- 8-9 hours for adolescents
Also, don’t let your kids sleep less during the week with the idea that they can “make it up” during the weekend. Sleep actually doesn’t work like that; they’ll still suffer the ill effects of sleep deprivation.
How Should They Sleep?
This is the most difficult consideration. Some of this will depend on what you have available to you, but you should at least know your options.
Many cultures frequently practice co-sleeping, and there are some major benefits to the practice. Reduced risk of SIDS, better sleep for you and the baby, a deeper connection … These are just some of the benefits of co-sleeping with your baby.
However, it’s not just babies that can benefit from co-sleeping. You might want to also consider co-sleeping with your toddlers. Many of the benefits for infants transfer over, with the added bonus that kids who co-sleep are often better behaved and more confident. Maybe this has something to do with your comfort being immediately available to them. And, conversely to what some believe, this practice actually does not produce more dependent children. They just move out of your bed when they’re ready on their own terms.
Furthermore, everyone sleeps better when you co-sleep, allowing everyone in your family to get the best rest possible. Just make sure to look at standard mattress sizes to make sure there’s enough room for everyone!
Sleep health is more important than most of us give it credit for. It’s easy to get wrapped up in what’s best for our children’s health during their waking hours, but we need to think about their sleeping habits as well. The exact manner you put your kids to bed is going to depend on your family and your cultural practices, but the above are some great guidelines to get you started.