By Dr. Jorge Rubal, CEO and Medical Director of LB Community Clinic
How does your child react when you call out “it’s bedtime?” I’m guessing it’s not all teddy bears and lullabies.
Children and teens need about nine hours of sleep. Poor sleep habits can affect a child’s academic performance, but more importantly, lack of sleep can have lasting health effects. Research has linked poor sleep habits to obesity and mental health disorders.
Here are some tips to help ensure your children get the sleep they need:
Start by taking a look around your child’s bedroom. The bed should be a comfortable size and free of excess toys. The room should be a comfortably cool temperature, dark, and quiet.
Consider your child’s schedule. If your child has too many after school activities, they may find themselves cramming homework into the evenings or eating late – both are pitfalls to quality sleep. Also, try cutting off-screen time 30 minutes before bedtime.
Next, work on developing a bedtime routine that you repeat each night with your child. Following a routine works to establish your child’s internal clock. You’ll observe, over time, that your child will become sleepy as they move through the steps of their routine.
My wife and I have two young boys in grade school – and a baby. Over the years, we have come to cherish our bedtime routine. It starts with having them brush their teeth, then we read a story to our boys, followed by saying our prayers together. This simple bedtime routine also has a bonding effect. For my family, it’s one of the ways we share our love of reading, and our faith.
We’re both physicians, so we’re well aware of the importance of instilling healthy sleep habits in our boys, yet we blow our routine on a regular basis. We often find ourselves joining in the tickling or giving in to requests for foot massages! The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that parents model consistency in their child’s bedtime routine as well as their own good sleep habits. I don’t need to sleep on that advice to know I’ve got my work cut out for me.