by Janet Ashforth
It’s bedtime! These three little words can be the source of nightly chaos. Chances are bedtime is a struggle for you and your children. You want the best for your kids. You know that adequate sleep is vital in easing your child’s anxiety and improving their performance in school. But every night it’s a battle. You might feel bad because they seem to have so little free time. Then there’s the pleading and begging for just 15 more minutes. As a result, you may wonder what time your child needs to go to bed on school nights and how much sleep they actually need.
Adequate Sleep – The Missing Ingredient
Your kids are probably sleep-deprived. Most likely, you are, too. Sleep is usually the first thing we give up to make room for other priorities, such as activities, homework, and personal chores. In fact, you probably don’t even notice it’s happening. But adequate sleep is even more crucial than you may realize.
Pillar 2 of Brillia’s five pillars outlines the importance of sleep. Not enough sleep can lead to poor performance, difficulty concentrating, increased anxiety and ADHD symptoms. Lack of adequate sleep could also lead to sleep disorders and behavior issues. There are age-appropriate guidelines for how much sleep your child needs. But remember that each child is a unique individual. Pay attention to how your kids are doing and adjust their sleep hours accordingly.
6 to 12 Years Old
The National Sleep Foundation says children aged 6 to 12 years old need approximately 9 to 11 hours of sleep. And all of it needs to be at night. In other words, naps don’t count. Set bedtime 12 to 12.5 hours before school starts the next day. Of course, that will depend on how fast your family can get ready in the morning. If your kids are slow to get going, they might need to go to bed a bit earlier.
13 to 18 Years Old
13 to 18-year-old teens need 8 to 10 hours of sleep. Your teen is growing like crazy and carrying an intense workload at school. Classes and homework demands are far more intense than they were even a decade ago. They need lots of food and lots of sleep.
To make matters worse, your teenager’s circadian rhythms are beginning to shift. Their bodies want to stay up later at night and get up later in the morning. Work with your teenagers and adjust their schedule to allow them to get enough sleep. But keep in mind what time they are physically capable of nodding off.
Make Sleep A Priority
Even if it means giving up some extracurricular activities. Have a bedtime transition period to ease your kids into bed. You can create a positive ritual that’s the same no matter what your child’s age. Pillars 3 and 4 of the Brillia Program offer some great guidance on monitoring screen time and incorporating mindfulness and relaxation. Turn off all electronic entertainment at least two hours before bedtime, including cell phones. Research shows that TV, computers, media, and Internet all cause your kids to have more difficulty falling asleep, nightmares and sleep disruption. In fact, 76 percent of studies have shown an adverse association between television watching and sleep issues. Watching TV close to bedtime has been associated with increased resistance to bedtime, anxiety around sleep and reduced hours of sleep.
Dim the lights in the house, light candles or put on tranquil music. Have your child or teen get in bed with a quiet activity about 30 minutes before lights out. Reading, drawing, coloring, crafts, audio books or anything that will help them shift into a lower gear. No cell phones, no video games, and no homework. Period.
Take a Break
If your child wants to ease up on the rules a bit, save it for vacation days off from school. Let your kids stay up a bit longer and sleep in later. The days are longer, and no child or teen likes to go to bed when it’s still light out. However, don’t allow your bedtime routine to change too drastically as consistency is key to adequate sleep. When the start of school approaches, it will be easier for your child to adjust back to their regular sleep schedule. The National Sleep Foundation suggests you start to slowly transition back to school night bedtimes about 3 weeks before school starts. You’ll be doing your kids a favor by helping them re-adjust to a stricter schedule.
Janet Ashforth is an ACE-certified Personal Trainer and licensed Massage Therapist. As a health and fitness expert, she’s helped countless individuals maintain or regain their health and wellness. Janet has raised three kids into happy and successful adulthood and now has her first grandchild. She also writes about food, nutrition, cooking and baking and is a “real food” advocate.