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Sleepovers & Bedtime

How Much Sleep does Your Child Actually Need?

The ability of teens and tweens to function seemingly normally on little to no sleep has mystified many parents. But, in reality, teens are actually biologically programmed to respond to different sleep patterns than small children and adults. Although adults function on a nearly 24-hour biological cycle, adolescents function on a longer clock. That means it's actually not natural for your teen to fall asleep before 11 p.m., according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Avoiding Sleep Problems

As a parent, you know that sleep is a vital part of maintaining your child's well being and it's just as important as eating healthy and getting exercise. Sleeping can even help your teen or tween manage stress better and focus more clearly. In order to function properly, children in the 10-14 age group need 9 ¼ hours of sleep each night, although 8 ½ hours might be enough for some children. That's a pretty hefty night's sleep. You might have to step in to help your child achieve those much needed z's.

A Full Night's Sleep

Even teens need bedtime rules. Try these tips to encourage a healthy sleep schedule:

  • Make a safe haven. Your child should make her room a safe haven when it's time to go to bed. Eliminate clutter and clean up a bit, and keep her room dark, cool, and quiet at night.
  • Establish a bedtime. Yes, your child may think she's a little too old for a bedtime, but she isn't. A consistent sleep schedule will help her feel more energetic and will encourage her body to get in sync with its natural patterns.
  • Develop a routine. Doing the same things before bed every night helps establish specific bedtime signals that the body responds to. Encourage your child to take a shower or read before bed. Dim the lights and create a soothing environment.
  • Be aware. Make sure your child stays away from snacking, drinking, or exercising a few hours before bed. Also, try to get her to avoid the computer, TV, and other loud activities and focus on more relaxing ones like listening to soothing music or reading.
  • Outlaw caffeine. There is no pill or vitamin out there can compensate for sleep loss. Make sure your child avoids coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate late in the day so the caffeine from these substances doesn't interfere with her sleep patterns.

The Importance of Sleep for Children

Sleep deprivation is unhealthy, and will affect your child in a variety of ways. It can alter your child's ability to concentrate in school, affects her mood, and has the potential to impact her decision making skills. It's important to encourage your child to get a good night's rest so she can focus on the things that really matter. Remember, there is no substitute for good sleep and that rule applies to everyone.