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Children And Sleep

By Dale Miller

Healthy sleep patterns are important for people of any age. However, when it comes to kids, instilling the right habits in them from the start can save them and you a whole host of future problems. Sleep is of vital importance for all of us, but it is particularly so for growing babies and children. Making sure that your kids get the sleep they need is an extremely important part of parenting.

Sleeping is one of the most important and pleasant activities of human life. Waking up feeling refreshed makes the whole day much better. It is vital for our health, mental, emotional and physical. Circadian rhythms are regulated by the light and dark, however these rhythms actually take time to develop. Usually, by six weeks old babies are beginning to develop such sleep-wake cycles.

It has been shown that by the age of two, most children have actually spent more time asleep than awake. Most kids will spend about forty percent of their childhood asleep. Babies, spend about fifty percent of their time in each of the states of sleep REM and non -REM. By about six months of age, REM sleep accounts for approximately thirty percent of sleep.

Newborns sleep on average a total of 10-18 hours of the day sleeping. These sleeping periods may range from only a few seconds to a number of hours at time. The sleep of newborns is interspersed by their need to be changed, nurtured and fed. But even at this early stage developing good sleep patterns is essential.

Babies should be put down while they are sleepy rather than once they are asleep. In this way, experts say that they will learn to fall asleep better on their own. As a parent, being aware of your babys sleep signals is very important.

Some babys rub their eyes, while others might fuss or cry. These signals will let you know that they should be ready for a nap. Another important point is to help them get used to the circadian rhythms by keeping them more awake during the day with light and some noise and making nighttime dark and quiet. This can help encourage night time sleeping.

For infants from 3-11 months, nighttime feedings may become increasingly unnecessary. By 9 months, seventy-eighty percent of infants will be able to sleep through the night. Naps will become less frequent throughout the day as well. Again putting infants to bed when they are drowsy will help them become self soothers. Developing regular daytime and bedtime schedules will help ease the transition as well being consistent about these routines. Making the sleep environment as friendly as possible for the infant will also go a long way to helping with sleep.

From ages one to three, kids need about 12-14 hours of sleep a day. One nap a day lasting about one to three hours for those aged 18 months or older is fine, but these should not occur too close to bedtime. Many toddlers do experience some sleep troubles at this stage including separation anxiety, night fears, and/or getting out of bed as part of their newfound independence. Some tips to help deal with these issues include: making the bedroom environment the same every night including the bedtime schedule. Setting limits that are consistent and encouraging the use of a security object, be it a blanket or stuffed animal.

Once your child is a preschooler, from age 3-5, they will typically need between 11 and 13 hours per night. Children at this stage may still be experiencing nighttime fears and thus may be having trouble sleeping.

The same principles here also apply. Consistency, friendly environment, and security all help establish good habits. As your child gets older you will be able to explain in more detail the importance of sleep and of regular sleeping schedules for their health and wellbeing.

Once a child reaches the prepubescent years, TV, video games, internet and other media as well as caffeinated beverages all may contribute to sleep disorders. Making sure that a calm, cool and dark environment are available and that TV and other such media is limited especially before bed will all help you child achieve a better nights rest.

Teenagers need a great deal more sleep than adults do. As we get older we need less and less sleep. According to the American Sleep Disorders.

Association, teenagers on average need about nine and half hours of sleep a night. Most interestingly, researchers have found that teenagers need about two hours more sleep a night than their siblings of eight to ten years. This is in contradiction however to how parents usually organize sleep routines. Parents most often allow their teenagers to stay up later than younger siblings.

Because of the growth rate and hormonal changes occurring to teenagers, more sleep is needed. A lack of sleep at this juncture can result in a variety of ill effects. Poor school performance and mood changes can be just some of the most immediate consequences. Car accidents and depression can also be contributed to by poor sleep habits.

In order to tell if your teenager is not getting enough sleep you can check for some common symptoms. Is your teen having difficulty getting up in the morning? Is he or she irritable in the afternoons? Does your teen fall asleep during the day or oversleep on weekends? Does he or she wake up during the night and have trouble getting back to sleep?.

If youve answered yes to some of these questions then your teenager might not be getting enough sleep. Be sure to follow some of the guidelines listed above and/or talk to your health care professional about how to start instituting better sleep regimes.

By following these guidelines early on you will have a better chance of preventing later sleep disturbances. Good sleep habits begin at a very early age. If you are just starting out though remember the above suggestions. Teens taught about healthy sleep patterns. Beginning a discussion with your child about the benefits of sleep will help them understand why you might be implementing some of the less well received rules. For instance, if you explain to your child that engaging with media right before bed can have a negative consequence on proper sleep, than he or she might be more inclined to obey such suggestions.

As with younger children, sleeping spaces should be dark, quiet and inviting. Comfortable beds and a good room temperature are also important. Following a regular schedule rather than trying to make up for lost sleep on weekends is also important. All of these solutions will help children of all ages develop healthy sleep habits. We cant live without sleep, so make it is well worth the effort to make sure that your children are getting enough.

Dale Miller is a health, sports, fitness and nutrition enthusiast.
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