Q. I’ve always heard we should strive to keep our kids on a schedule no matter what, waking them up at the same time on weekends. My teens don’t go to bed early on weekends no matter what i say, so i let them sleep in whenever possible. Do you have any guidelines?
A. I hear your frustration and concern. It is true that sleep is crucial to a well-functioning teen in all spheres of their lives: academically, socially, and athletically. Sleep has become a national concern as studies show that this generation is getting less sleep then those who came before. It has been welldocumented that on average, A-students get an hour a night more sleep then their peers with lower grades (a fact you might want to share with your teens).
As you have learned, you can’t force a child to sleep, but you can create an environment in which sleep is more likely to happen. Here are a few useful tips.
Stick to a routine. While this is difficult with teens, you can help reduce extracurricular activities and curb late night social time. It’s fine to sleep in an hour or two on weekends, but more than that becomes counterproductive.
Short naps can help. If your teen is drowsy during the day, a thirty-minute nap after school can help. Anything longer could interfere with nighttime sleep. A power nap before homework might also aid in the ability to focus.
Make sure to get electronics out of the bedroom. There is a direct relationship between these distractions and the number of hours of sleep a teen gets. While you need to pick your battles with teens, this is one worth fighting. Don’t give up!
Try to encourage physical activity as many days a week as possible. Physical activity promotes sleep. Make sure that it does not take place too late in the evening, which might have the opposite effect.
Q. My baby is three months old and i am wondering when she will work into a sleep routine. How many hours of sleep should she be getting?
A. Sleep is one of those child development issues with its answer based on temperament. Some infants are great sleepers who work easily into a routine and who sleep sixteen hours a day. Others hardly sleep during the day, but sleep well at night. And still others seem to be all over the place with no particular pattern at all. All of these can be considered normal as long as your child is healthy and hitting those developmental milestones.
Most babies work into a morning nap, an afternoon nap, and a stretch of sleep at night of five to ten hours. You can structure your day to accommodate this schedule, but it still may not happen. What is key is a baby who knows how to get herself to sleep. This is accomplished by putting your infant to bed with some degree of wakefulness so that he has the awareness of falling asleep not in your arms, but in a crib.
It’s important not to worry about sleep if all else is going well. Often parents ask questions about their baby, when in reality, it is they who are not getting enough sleep! If this is the case, try to take a nap yourself upon occasion. If you are just dragging yourself around, see if you can arrange a night away from your baby so that you can get a good night’s sleep now and then. Sweet dreams – and good luck!