Healthy Sleep Habits Start Early
Your child's brain is actively working to form new connections as they sleep. Sleep helps a child to be more physically relaxed and mentally alert when they are awake, prepares them for new experiences, helps them positively engaging with others, builds their memory and strengthens their attention skills.
Research links poor sleep habits to a greater risk of obesity, impaired memory and attention as well as poor academic performance. That's why it is important to help your child establish healthy sleep habits early that will help prevent learning and health problems later.
Here are 5 things you can do to help your child develop healthy sleep habits.
Help them get enough sleep. The chart below outlines the recommended hours of sleep a child needs each day. Having a schedule of bedtimes and naps helps your child "recharge" throughout the day. Keep in mind that routines are important. If your child misses their scheduled nap time, try and keep them awake until their next nap time or bedtime to maintain a routine.
- By 4 months most children take three to four naps
- By 8 months most children take two naps
- By 21 months most chlldren take one nap
- By age 6 most children no longer need a regular nap time
Provide a comfortable sleeping environment. The quality of your child's sleep can be affected by where they sleep and the duration of their sleep time. Waking up several times during a sleep disrupts brain growth and the natural sleep cycle. That's why it's important to provide children with a restful sleep environment and allow ample time for them to snooze.
Learn to recognize your child's "I'm getting" sleepy signals. Lay your child down for a nap or bedtime when they are in a drowsy state, don't wait until they are overtired. Yawning, decreased activity, droopy eyelids or becoming less vocal are signals that it may be time for your child to take a nap or head for bed.
Establish a consistent routine. Adjust sleep routines to your child's age and individual needs. For example, a 10-year-old's bedtime routine might be to lay in bed and read a book to fall asleep, while a 2-year-old might need to be read to and then rocked to sleep. Avoid stimulating activities such as watching TV or playing video games before bed as these will affect your child's ability to calm down and fall asleep.
Communicate with others. Share your strategy and information about your child's routines for naps and bedtime with care providers, the child's other parent, a nanny, and other relatives so they can support your efforts to establish a healthy sleep pattern for your child.
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