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Consistent bedtime could be good for kids' health

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Posted: Monday, June 28, 2010 12:00 am

New parents have a lot to learn about caring for their children. Anxiety over sleeping patterns can begin when children are infants and continue as they age. Research indicates that a consistent bedtime may not only be good for parents' sanity, but for kids' health as well.

Many parents can attest that sleep issues are a concern for both them and their children. New parents are faced with infants that generally have their days and nights mixed up, resulting in a lack of sleep for parents. Then the tides generally turn, and it's the children who are getting less sleep — begging parents to stay up longer and creating excuses why they're not ready to snuggle under the covers. But once again it's the parents who are paying the price — facing lack of sleep and potentially overtired children.

According to Lauren Hale, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at Stony Brook University Medical Center in Stony Brook, New York, a child's bedtime routine can affect his or her sleep pattern throughout a lifetime. She says, "Sleep patterns and sleep routines matter because they have both long-term and short-term implications for health and cognitive development."

The National Sleep Foundation says infants and toddlers need on average 12 to 14 hours of sleep daily, which is a combination of nighttime rest and additional naps. Even children up to age 12 should get 10 or 11 hours of sleep. Developing a set bedtime for children early on and creating a bedtime routine can help children anticipate sleep and get the rest they need.

Creating a Bedtime Routine

1. Determine the time when you notice children becoming out of sorts and tired. Make this time the daily bedtime.

2. An hour before bedtime, limit television watching or other stimulating activities.

3. Think about soothing activities. Consider reading a book or singing a lullaby to younger children. Allowing an hour of quiet reading or music for older children could work, too.

4. A warm bath can help put children in a restful state as well.

5. Be consistent with the bedtime. Don't allow kids to pressure you into staying up longer.

6. Avoid sugary snacks or caffeinated products for kids before bedtime; they can become even more wired.

7. Try to schedule the household activities so they don't infringe on bedtime.

8. Children should fall asleep when tired. Keeping a child up late will not necessarily help them sleep better or longer. In fact, an overtired child could take longer to settle down and awaken during the night.

9. Parents should use the time when kids are in bed to rest themselves, enjoy time together or simply enjoy the quiet.

Similarly, a consistent waking time for children also develops good sleeping habits. The same can be said for adults. Retiring and waking at consistent times each day enables the body to prepare for rest and is good for general health.

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