Getting kids their needed sleep

Published 7:04 pm Saturday, July 2, 2016

QUESTION: What is the needed amount of sleep for kids at various ages in life?

RESPONSE: Brains need sleep. Sleep affects glucose metabolism; lack of sleep reduces the glucose supply to the brain, which has the biggest negative impact on the prefrontal cortex, so that children who don’t get enough sleep can’t think, solve problems, concentrate or manage their behavior as well as rested children.

Newborns sleep 16 to 18 hours a day. Babies’ brains will wire in sleep patterns based on experience. Don’t wait for your baby to be sound asleep before putting her in the crib.

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Watch your baby for sleepy signs, like yawning, rubbing eyes, getting fussy, so you can put her in her crib when she’s tired. When she wakes up at night, if she’s been fed and changed and you know there is no crisis, let her try to soothe herself to sleep for a few minutes, which may mean some crying, before you rush in and pick her up.

Toddlers need 12 to 14 hours and preschoolers need 11 to 13 hours of sleep. Too little sleep either causes or makes worse a lot of childhood misbehavior and aggression.

Northwestern University scientists found that preschoolers who slept less than ten hours in a 24 hour period were 25 percent more likely to misbehave and/or be aggressive. Electronic media are “sleep thieves;” keep all screens out of kids’ bedrooms and avoid all electronic media before bedtime.

TVs, computers and video games make both falling asleep and staying asleep more difficult, especially if what is on the screen is scary.

School-age kids need 10-11 hours and teenagers need at least 9 hours of sleep a night. Bedtime routines are still important for older children and teens.

Light snacks before bed are fine; however, caffeine or sugary drinks and overheated rooms interfere with sound sleep. Add a ten minute “bedtime chat” to the end of the day routine to give your child some quality alone time, which may stretch into some longer significant conversations with teens.

To talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in child-raising, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 1-877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599.  Check out and Smart Parenting, Smarter Kids by David Walsh, Ph.D. at the PRC Specialty Library (105 First Street S.E., Austin).