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Hey, Kids, What Time Is It? Its Sleepy Time!

October 12, 2006
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With more and more things competing for your child's waking hours, it's not surprising to hear that most kids are sleep deprived.

A recent KidsHealth Kids Poll estimated that 62 percent of youngsters ages 9 to 13 do not get enough sleep, and 70 percent wish they they could get more sleep. Of those children who are sleep-deficient, most required an additional hour or more of sleep per night to meet the recommended amount for children their age.

Experts recommend that school-age children receive 9.5 to 10.5 hours of sleep each night.

What can parents do to make a difference in their child's sleep habits? The poll found strong evidence in support of establishing a bedtime routine. Kids who reported having a bedtime routine were:

· more likely to get the recommended amount of sleep.

· less likely to be tired at school.

· less likely to wish for "much more sleep" than they usually get.

Part of establishing a bedtime routine is setting a time for your child to go to bed. The poll found strong support for parents taking the lead in setting their child's bedtime. Children who reported that their parents "decide what time to go to bed" were more likely to get an adequate amount of sleep; in fact, they averaged 45 minutes more sleep nightly than children who chose their own bedtime.

"One of the most troubling things in recurrent sleep deprivation is the effect on the immune status," explains Kate Cronan, M.D., pediatrician and medical editor for KidsHealth.

"One or two nights of poor sleep is not the issue, it is those children who repeatedly receive too little sleep," she continues. "What many parents do not realize is that without proper sleep, kids' bodies are not able to fight infection as effectively. In addition to their physical health, sleep deprivation can also affect their outlook on life.

"A tired adult understands why they may have a tough day when they are sleepy -- and they soldier on. We cannot expect the same from children. Parents need to help them get the proper amount of sleep. In the end, it really will make a huge difference for the whole family."

Too Little, Too Late?
Is it too late to start a bedtime routine if the child is elementary age? Not at all. KidsHealth.org shares simple tips for establishing (or re-establishing) a bedtime routine with your child:

· Set up a bedtime for school nights and stick to it.

· Make sure that homework (or any other preparation your child needs to make for the next day) gets done first to ensure your child can get to bed on time.

· Thirty minutes before bedtime, encourage your child to finish any projects or activities, and begin the bedtime routine (wash face and hands, brush teeth, etc.)

· Include activities in the routine that will help your child slow down and relax (like taking a shower or reading a book).

· Spend a few minutes recapping the day together. Not only is this a great chance to catch up with your child, but your voice and presence will help your child to relax.

· Say good-night, and remind your child to stay quiet and in bed.


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