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Ask an Expert: Are your kids sleeping enough?

Kids’ health expert Jennifer Suchon offers some tips on how to lure your children to dreamland to ensure they’re getting enough rest.

Q. How do I make sure my child is getting enough sleep?

A. Many families struggle to adjust their school-year schedules to make sure everyone is getting enough sleep. One of the most common questions raised by parents is, ‘How do I help my child get to sleep?’

Many children and adolescents have later bedtimes and less predictable morning routines during the summer or over long weekends or holidays. In order to help kids succeed in school and school-year activities, they must have adequate rest.

For some, shifts in bedtime coupled with the exhausting school day are adequate to change sleep habits. For many, this is not enough and children spend their days feeling tired after spending nights unable to fall or stay asleep.

Many health benefits are attained through developing healthy habits and routines, and sleep is no exception.

Promoting a consistent evening routine will help gets kids to sleep. Below are some useful strategies. The key for many kids is to select one or two of the strategies below and consistently apply the strategies every night – including weekends!

Going-to-sleep tips

  • Maintain a consistent bedtime.
  • Eliminate screen time – turn off the TV and computer one hour before bed.
  • Take a relaxing shower or bath.
  • Drink a Sleepy Time or chamomile tea.
  • Reduce or eliminate snacking two hours before bed.
  • Develop a calming activity-stretching for older kids, such as reading a book or listening to quiet music.
  • Make the sleep space cool and dark – no TV.

It is always important to consider anxiety and stressors that may be affecting your child’s ability to unwind. If a child is feeling anxiety about events to come the next day or things left unresolved today, they may struggle to sleep or to stay asleep.

Some medications can affect sleep, so if the problem is new and a new medication has been started, talk to your medical provider. The strategies above will help but addressing the underlying concern is also necessary. Sleep medications are, in general, not the best solution and must be used with caution and medical guidance.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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