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Sufficient sleep helps us stay healthy and handle stress.

Sleep: How Important Is It Really?

There is compelling evidence that a healthy sleep routine can contribute greatly to one’s physical and mental well-being as well as their overall quality of life. Sufficient sleep ranks among the best defense mechanisms we have to stay healthy and handle our stress. (  Parents may notice their patience, temper, focus, and ability to cope are extra challenged when quality sleep has not occurred.  Parents may notice their children are more irritable, more demanding, and less able to control their behaviors when they do not have adequate sleep. The National Institutes of Health reports the following amounts of sleep are needed daily:

  • Newborns – 16-18 hours
  • Children in preschool – 10 to 12 hours
  • School-aged children and teens – at least 9 hours
  • Adults – at least 7-8 hours

Bedtime and naptime can be challenging times. Here are some tips to encourage healthy sleeping habits in children (and ADULTS, too):

  • Follow a familiar bedtime routine every night. Prepare the child in advance when bedtime is going to start.
  • Enforce a consistent sleep schedule for naps and bedtime.
  • Get plenty of outside time and physical activity daily.
  • Keep computers, TVs, and other entertainment electronics out of the bedroom.  These activities can energize children instead of preparing them to sleep.
  • Watching TV close to bedtime can lead to sleep problems in children. They often resist bedtime and can have trouble falling asleep because their minds are over stimulated.
  • A snack with protein or milk may be calming.  Avoid caffeinated and sugary snacks.
  • Make sure your child’s bedroom is sleep-friendly — dark or darker (child may prefer to sleep with a nightlight), quiet, and comfortable (temperature, a special blanket/lovey, a favorite toy, soothing music, etc).
  • Keep a sleep diary to help you know what is working and what is not.

If you are experiencing sleep challenges with children under the age of 5 years, please contact the Mental Health Department at Rainbows (558.3420) to learn more about our services and how we might help you. This post was written by Kathy Van Zelfden, Mental Health Specialist.

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