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Sleep Recommendations

This is fun for playtime...but for resting please tuck them in in their own environment!

The start of a new school year for many comes with a return to earlier alarm times. It is always a good time to focus on good sleep hygiene for optimal energy during those busy school days!

One of the most common questions I get is this: how much sleep does my child need?

Here is a great chart to refer to for all ages. If you have a teenager, you are likely well aware that they cannot survive on little sleep. However, if you have a younger school aged child who tends to act irritable during the day, you may want to evaluate the amount of sleep they are getting per 24 hour period. They may still need up to 12 hours! Sleep is so important for growth as well as the brain's processing of the day's events, not to mention proper healing from viral and other infections.

How do we help our kids get the sleep they need?

- Follow a regular bedtime routine: bedtime can be chaotic! However, routines are comforting to children and can make for quicker overall time to sleep, thus less work for parents after the kids are all tucked in. So don't rush this one.

- Keep a consistent bedtime on school nights. Additionally, don't vary weekend bedtime by more than two hours from weekday bedtime.

- Ideally, eat dinner at least two hours before bedtime. Bedtime snacks, if necessary, should be a small amount of protein, a small amount of carbohydrates and if possible, calcium. Examples include nuts or a small bowl of low sugar cereal with almond milk. Remember to avoid caffeine, excess sugar and spicy foods close to bedtime. Chamomile tea is a better beverage choice and is regarded as safe for children as young as toddler age.

- Make sure kids' bedrooms are quiet, dark (free of any blue light including screens), and at a cool temperature. Red spectrum nightlights are best for sleep. I recommend charging cell phones outside of the room. For younger kids, clocks such as this one can help keep them from coming out of the room to wake parents up at the first light of day.

- Plan ahead to have kids exercise during the day so that they are ready to rest at night.

If your child has sleep difficulties despite maximizing the sleep hygiene measures above, melatonin may be an option. Melatonin is a hormone naturally found in the body, released from the pineal gland in a circadian rhythm. Melatonin levels are very sensitive to any amount of blue spectrum light, thus the blue light filters on screens and recommendation to turn them off in advance of bedtime.

Melatonin is available in supplement form in widely varying doses. Its nightly use in children has been studied mostly for those with neurologic conditions in general, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorder. Short-term use has been studied in children and was well-tolerated. Long-term use has not been studied and dosing has not been standardized.

A myriad of other conditions can cause sleep issues as well. Schedule an appointment to discuss your child's sleep issues so that we can troubleshoot together and your whole family can get a better night's sleep!

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