The Ultimate Guide to Sleep for Kids

The Ultimate Guide to Sleep for Kids

The Ultimate Guide to Sleep for Kids

Good sleep is necessary for kids, especially in their development stage. Their brains need rest after processing loads of new information throughout the day as they are continuously learning both new ideas and getting to know other things in life as part of their growth. 

However, it may be true that most of us do not understand what constitutes good sleep, or sleep patterns for that matter.

Sleeping habits, whether good or bad, are developed from childhood. How you train your kid to sleep will stick with them for a very long time, if not for their entire life into adulthood. You do not need to panic if you are not aware that dangers may be associated with an unbalanced sleeping routine. Such dangers could manifest as mental or bodily issues.

However, it is not too late to make the required changes to improve your kids and your sleeping pattern.

In this ultimate guide to sleep for kids, we will cover what you need to know about your newborn’s sleeping habits, the kind of activities you can engage your kids with to help them sleep better, and the possible chances of sleep interference due to obesity.

We’ll also share some ideas on how to improve your sleeping habits.

Developing Sleep Patterns

The human sleep-wake pattern, otherwise referred to as human circadian rhythm, takes time to develop. The brain will need to experience a few sleep patterns before adopting them. 

This is evident in the somewhat weird sleep patterns exhibited by newborns. For new parents, it is customary to be kept awake for a good part of the night since your kid will not just sleep. Their sleep patterns are inconsistent as they have not yet developed a circadian rhythm. 

This, however, is likely to change after about six months. By then, the baby has developed a circadian rhythm, and their brain has adapted. What a relief! Only then can parents finally get some regular sleep too.

Children’s circadian rhythm develops when they are about six weeks old. Before then, they sleep about 11 to 18 hours per day. Their sleep patterns by this time are not scheduled, and they wake up just as randomly as they fell asleep. 

Their nighttime sleep is about 12 hours, while the remaining hours will be random naps during the day, ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours per nap. It is also possible to have a reverse effect of this; they may sleep longer during the day and have short naps during the night.

Kids getting to 1 year have well-established sleep patterns and are likely to sleep as generally as adults whose circadian rhythms are well developed. We utilise most of our childhood phase sleeping, which constitutes 40% of a 2-year old kid’s life.

Different Kinds of Sleep

Whether you’re a kid or an adult, you’ll typically experience two kinds of sleep:

  1. Rapid Eye Movement, referred to as REM
  2. Non-Rapid Eye Movement also referred to as NREM

1. Rapid Eye Movement, REM

The eyes can be noticed randomly moving behind the eyelids in REM sleep. The person is asleep and does not realise this is taking place. We often dream during this phaset; the brain has some ongoing activity and constantly changing heartbeat; thus, it may be simply called active sleeping.

2. Non-Rapid Eye Movement

NREM is the soundest form of sleep. There is no bodily movement or brain engagement of any form. Everything is quiet, and the body and brain get maximum rest. With NREM, a person develops more, and such sleep is perfect for kids. Growth hormone production is at its peak, tissues are repaired, and muscle strength is restored. It’s the kind of sleep that every person desires to have.

Since we would want to always be in the NREM sleep state, there is always a balance between the two. More often than not, babies experience a 50/50 split, which changes as they grow older. 

Once their circadian rhythm has been formed, the REM state reduces by 20%. By the time they are about to start school, their REM comes in intervals of 50 to 90 minutes, where it is maintained.

Different Sleeping Habits By Age

Sleep patterns are not defined by age; however, some are particularly common within some age brackets.

An example is in the case of newborns. Most of them have undefined sleeping patterns, especially during the night, which may drive their parents into sleep deprivation. However, their nap times will become less frequent with time as they approach the age of one and a half. 

Also, it is worth noting that kids need more sleep than adults. By the time they get to about 13 years, their average sleep hours within 24 hours reduces from the initial 11 to 18 hours to about 10 hours.

Below are some developmental sleep pattern changes that you may expect from your kids as they grow older.

1. Newborns to 2 months

With newborns, it is common to notice short naps mainly define their sleep patterns. At one point, they are deep asleep, and at the next, they are wide awake, screaming their lungs out. This is mainly propelled by the fact that they have not yet established well-defined sleeping patterns.

There may be sleep interruptions throughout the day for the newborns, as to be expected, which are often associated with feeding, nurturing, and changing times. Their wake-up time is always short and usually averages 2 hours with sleep intervals of up to 9 hours. But don’t be surprised if they experience shorter sleeping hours, which could be even minutes!

REM sleep in newborns is relatively notable as you are likely to see smiles on the baby’s face or notice arm or leg movement.

2. 3 months to 11 months

As they grow older, the kid’s sleep patterns become more defined, as influenced by the sun and other factors such as the type of routines instilled by the parents. Well, at least they can have a good night’s sleep by this time.

The need for nighttime feeding also slowly diminishes as they spend the time mostly asleep. If their sleep is uninterrupted, they will easily sleep through the night. Daytime naps reduce, too, though they are still common. They may have about a maximum of 4 naps per day that will last anywhere between 2hrs and 30minutes, which also reduces as they approach their first year.

3. 1 year to 3 years

At 1 to 3 years, children need up to 14 hours of sleep every day. Their daytime nap also significantly reduces from the initial four naps per day during their younger age to 1 nap per day. 

Timing the napping time is also essential since taking naps late in the day may lead to a struggle to fall asleep at night, ultimately resulting in poor sleep habits.

4. 3 years to 5 years

Sleeping hours for children who are in preschool-age reduces to about 12 hours. By the time the child is five years old, daytime naps are no longer necessary. Sleep disorders such as sleepwalking and vigorous REM could result from expanding mental horizons, including imagination. 

This may be due to their daily activities since they are just developing and perhaps becoming more engaged in physical activities such as playing. Some also experience slight Changes in times when they fall asleep, as some kids may have problems staying awake during the night.

5. 5 years to 12 years

The sleeping time of a school-going child is about 10 hours per night. At this point, there are probably some other factors involved that may make timing and other sleep-related issues challenging to monitor and control. In turn, this will result in developing unhealthy sleeping habits.

Several factors such as the school program, sports, interactions with friends all have to be organised to allow adequate time for sleep and enable the body to recharge for the next day. Failure to which the child may have a challenging day when they wake up and start going about their daily routine.

The other factor contributing to the difference in sleeping patterns in school-going kids is their meals. Beverages with caffeine become a common constituent in the diet. 

When combined with exposure to night screen time – long hours of video game playing – and getting up early for school, there will be a problem. Problems associated with such tendencies include obesity, mood swings, and altered concentration in class. Additionally, mental development is also at risk.

Establishing Bedtime routines

One of the crucial routines you have to establish at a tender age is sleep.

It is easier to control the sleeping habits of preschool kids than the sleep patterns of kids who have started attending school. Still, this does not mean that scheduling sleeping patterns for toddlers is any easier.

In most cases, infants have their ways of showing they need to or are about to sleep. Such signs could be shown by rubbing the eyes or any others with which the parent is conversant and can quickly translate to ‘ít is time for bed.’ Once you notice these signs, it is prudent to take them to their cribs or bed. 

It is good to do so before they nod off since moving them around once they fall asleep may wake them up, and they will have difficulty falling back asleep. Sometimes they may not sleep again, and they will become grumpy. Just get them to bed as soon as you notice the signs and let them have a peaceful sleep or nap.

Also, you should note that if you constantly lay them to sleep whenever they are tired, they tend to learn to fall asleep on their own, and you may not need to be close to them whenever they need to sleep in the future.

You can also develop sleeping routines by keeping the kid engaged throughout the day. Ensure the child’s environment is well lit with natural light and play with the child regularly. 

If you keep the child occupied during the day and hardly sleep, you create a defined sleep and wake-up time routine. The child will fall asleep easily at night and probably sleep soundly. Ultimately, you will be having a peaceful night, too, since you don’t have to keep on waking up every other time to check on the baby.

The quietness of the night, darkness and other sleep soothing practices all come together to support the development of a healthy nighttime sleeping routine.

As they grow older, the child’s social development plays a crucial role in determining how well defined their sleeping pattern can be. Some infants may find it difficult to fall asleep when they are not close to their caregivers, while others easily fall asleep and are not anxious about their caregivers’ whereabouts. Those who are secure often tend to learn how to fall asleep on their own quicker than those insecure.

Also, secure infants find it easy to fall asleep if they wake up in the night, and the parents may not easily realise they were awake for a short while in the night, whereas the insecure infants who need assistance to fall asleep will have to be soothed back to sleep.

Toddlers usually tend to be defiant over bedtime. Their need for independence propels this as they are learning and developing. It is at this point that their motor skills are also steadily developing. A combination of all these changes as they grow results in some sleeping problems, and getting them back to sleep when they wake up during the night also becomes tricky.

During this time, they may also start experiencing nightmares, and whenever they wake up, there is always a will to get off the bed by themselves.

This may pose a problem to the toddler’s sleeping patterns, especially for insecure children, and they may need a little more reassurance to fall asleep on their own.

With the kids’ aging factor, sleeping time management needs more attention. 

There are school schedules to be followed and maintained, sporting activities to get involved in, homework to be done, and social life such as interactions with friends and the surrounding. 

You need to keep up with all of these and plan a good sleeping pattern at the end! Bedtime management is tricky at this point, and it is during this time sleep plays a crucial role in the child’s development. 

How to Establish Good Bedtime and Sleeping Habits

You should not take long to decide when your child should go to bed. Just develop and maintain a routine, and the rest will fall into place.

When dealing with newborns, let them stay awake for longer during the day by keeping them engaged; try to play with them whenever you can. This will most likely improve their nighttime sleep.

As the newborns grow and become toddlers, you may maintain the daytime stay-awake routine and accompany it with other elements such as feeding them some light meals then bathing before getting them to bed. Maintaining the routine makes their system adapt such that over time, it becomes an inward driving mechanism when they become older. 

The sleeping rooms for kids should be quiet, conducive, and warm. Try to maintain blankets as their primary heat source and not heat the room.

During this time, children should also be encouraged to start sleeping independently if they initially relied on a caregiver’s company to fall asleep. Also, as parents and caregivers, you may want to read bedtime stories as part of the routine; you should say your goodnight and leave as soon as you are done with the bedtime story.

Television sets and other much-loved electrical gadgets may also be a distraction to your kids’ sleeping routine. Such gadgets should not be in their rooms since you are trying to form a solid routine. Once you establish a pattern, remember to be consistent and repeat the same procedures every night, including the exact sleep time.

On Sleep Disorder

Sleep disorders may accompany the transition when a child is developing circadian rhythm. The child can grow out of some of these disorders, while others may cause concern and need attention.

Kids may undergo sleep disorders such as:

  • Sleepwalking and nightmares are often triggered by the development of their motor skills and imaginations as they become toddlers. Their brains tend to be relatively active, which may cause movement of other body parts such as arms and legs when they are asleep. 

Nightmare cases are easy to deal with since the child is likely to talk and forget about them in the day. The caregiver’s reassurance about the bad dream is essential, and even though the kid may still think about it, it is most likely to be brushed off.

Children who sleepwalk should not be awakened; doing so prolongs the condition. The best you can do is ensure their rooms are safe and there isn’t anything in their way that may trip them or cause harm.

  • Narcolepsy is when a child is excessively sleepy during the day and cannot control the number of times they fall asleep. The condition does not rely on whether they had a goodnight’s sleep or not. You should take the child to the doctor for further advice and treatment. Once noticed, professional assistance is required.
  • Sleep Apnea – In this case, referred to as like kid’s sleep apnea. This is a condition where the kid’s breathing periodically stops and begins, which causes snoring. Visiting a sleep specialist is the best option for this case to identify the problem and determine the best treatment quickly.

Wrap Up 

Note that laying infants on their backs helps avoid SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which occurs when the portion of a child’s brain that controls breathing is unable to do it effectively. 

The condition is also triggered by specific sleeping postures such as laying children on their tummy, restricting their automatic breathing mechanisms.

Participation in your child’s development is necessary, and defining a proper sleeping routine is part of it. Always pay attention to the small details in their sleeping patterns as they grow older each day. 

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