Ensure children sleep soundly, regularly and safely

Sleep is important in the development of infants and children, be sure your child is getting enough sleep.

We all know sleep is important, and it is just as important in our young children, however, because of young children’s inability to communicate the need for sleep to the parent or the caretaker, so very often parents are left to guess, “What is going on with my child?” when they display behaviors that indicate a lack of sleep. Typical behaviors that are common with children lacking sleep can be any combination of the following behaviors: an inability to concentrate, tiredness, high energy, irritable, easily frustrated or being overly emotional.

According to a publication by the University of Missouri Extension, babies zero to 6 months will sleep throughout the day with short periods of wakefulness. Infants sleep nearly 16 hours in a 24 hour period. They may appear restless and twitch their arms and legs, make noises, smile or suck. A parent can look for signs of fussiness or sleepiness. Infants 6 months to 1 year may sleep near 13 ½ hours. A parent can again, look for sleepy or fussiness patterns and set a sleep schedule near that time.

It is important the infants sleep on their backs to decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). If the infant wakes at night, the parent can provide comfort to the child while in the crib by schussing or padding the mattress gently up and down with their hands providing a rocking sensation.  It is recommended the child be put to bed when they are drowsy and not in a deep sleep. It is helpful if the parent develops a consistent schedule and routine for naps and bedtime.

Toddlers ages 1 to 3 will sleep less, 10 to 13 hours. Parents are encouraged to continue with consistent routines for naps and bedtime. At this age the child may start requesting a drink, or getting out of bed. Parents can set a limit on number of drinks and provide a comforting safe stuffed animal. A night light may be helpful.

Older, 4 to 5 year olds will require 10-12 hours of sleep at night. Children’s naps will decrease to one or two hours, however, children that are sleeping 10 hours at night may require less napping or no naps. The children can have quiet time when they can rest or do a sedentary activity like reading. Watching TV before bedtime will make it difficult for children to fall asleep.

The time parents and caretakers invest in assuring their children get the sleep they need will be well worth it for both parent and child. For more articles on child development and parenting, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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