Moms Columns & Blogs

Help your child get a good night's sleep

When a child's internal clock lags way behind the morning alarm clock, both the student and family suffer the consequences. Here are tips to get your child into better sleep habits.

-- Two- and 3-year-old children sleeping less than 10 hours in a 24-hour period are at greatest risk for behavior problems, such as acting out and aggression, Northwestern University scientists have reported.

-- Sleep problems affect the entire family's quality of life, child psychologists find, and are among the problems parents most frequently discuss with their health care providers.

-- To solve the problem, look for culprits: If your child is waking up at night, keep a sleep diary to track patterns. Taking notes could show, for example, that your child is waking up one to two hours after he falls asleep. Overtiredness may be to blame.

-- Start a relaxing nightly routine about 15 minutes earlier. An earlier bedtime does not cause a child to wake up earlier in the morning.

-- The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests that children in preschool need to sleep between 11 and 13 hours a night, and school-age children need 10 to 11 hours of sleep.

-- Sleep loss has a new risk, according to a new study. Chronic sleep loss has been associated with an increased risk of weight gain in adults, but now an analysis of data indicates that lack of adequate nighttime sleep in infants and preschoolers also is a significant risk factor for later childhood obesity.

Lack of sleep didn't necessarily raise the risk of a normal-weight child becoming obese, but there was a greater risk of a shift from overweight at the beginning of the study to becoming obese at the follow-up.

To prepare children and teens for the new school year, the National Sleep Foundation offers these tips:

-- Create a special comfortable place for sleep. The bedroom or other sleeping quarters should be cool, quiet and dark. Televisions and computers should be placed in another room. Some children and teens find soft music helps them relax and get ready to fall asleep.

-- Achieve a balanced schedule. Help students avoid an overloaded schedule that can lead to stress and difficulty coping, which contribute to poor health and sleep problems.