Courtney's Corner

Courtney’s Corner: Promoting Your Child’s Sleep Hygiene

As the sun stays up later and summer nears, bedtimes often become much more difficult to enforce.  Compound this fact with emerging data that children with NF1 display increased rates of poor sleep patterns and you have a recipe for nightly battles and sleepy children.
Children are naturally curious and full of energy; however, with this energy comes a lack of insight about when the fun and exploration should stop and the body should be given time to rest, repair and learn.  This is where parents step in!  Our job is to reassure our children that the fun will return tomorrow, but that our bodies need lots of time to recover from daily activities.
Setting and maintaining bedtimes that are consistent is called sleep hygiene.  In many regards, sleep hygiene is as important as brushing teeth and bathing. Sleep is the time when we repair our cells, grow our muscles, lay pathways in our brain and  process what we have learned during our day.  Without enough sleep, our bodies simply aren’t given the chance to develop and grow to their full potentials.
How can you tell if your child is getting enough sleep?  Children should wake by themselves in a relatively good mood.  If waking up is a struggle, then bedtime may be too late. Sometimes fatigue can be displayed by poor behavior or decreased attention.  If your child becomes more impulsive, less attentive or more physical around dinner time or is difficult to calm for bed, bedtime may be too late.
Although a child can never be forced to fall asleep, there are several tips you can follow to ease the transition to bedtime and set your child up for a successful night sleep:

  • No caffeine, especially close to bedtime. Remember, many sodas (even several varieties of root beer) have caffeine as does tea.
  • Establish a quiet bedtime routine and follow it everyday.
  • Make bedtime the same time every night and try to wake up at the same time every morning (even on the weekend).
  • When kids get too tired, they have a hard time falling asleep. Pay special attention to your child during the evening hours. As soon as they are rubbing their eyes, having more trouble controlling their emotions or are more impulsive, realize they may be tired.
  • A child’s room should be for sleeping. A nice rule of thumb is that all things that need a cord (including a TV and video games) should be in public areas of the home, not bedrooms.
  • If you think your child is not getting enough sleep, move their bedtime earlier by about 15 minutes at a time. You will not likely convince a child to go to bed at 7:30PM in one day if they are used to staying up until 9:00PM.

Recommended Hours of Sleep by Age Group*

Infants 14 to 15 hours per night
Toddlers 12 to 14 hours per night
Preschoolers 11 to 13 hours per night
Grade school children 10 to 11 hours per night
Teenagers 9 to 10 hours per night

Recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
Courtney Dunn, PT DPT