Tips for Improving your Child's Sleep

Adequate sleep quality and duration is critical in children and teens. Inadequate sleep can lead to difficulty paying attention, learning problems, increased irritability, overeating, obesity, headaches, hypertension, and depression.

According the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):

  • Infants 4 months to 12 months should sleep 12 - 16 hours (including naps) per day

  • Toddlers 1 to 2 years should sleep 11 - 14 hours (including naps) per day

  • Children 3 to 5 years should sleep 10 – 13 hours (including naps) per day

  • Children 6 to 12 years should sleep 9 – 12 hours per day

  • Teens 13 to 18 years should sleep 8 – 10 hours per day

Tips for improving sleep:

  1. Establish a consistent bedtime routine (this should be the same on weekdays and weekends), including both sleep time and wake time each day. A routine can include brushing teeth, bath time, and reading.

  2. Eliminate food or beverages that contain caffeine at least 4-6 hours before bedtime.

  3. Eliminate use of electronics (e.g., cell phones, laptops, iPads, etc.) at least 1 hour before bedtime. This can help prevent sleep disruption.

  4. Avoid all activities (e.g., homework) except sleeping in bed.

  5. Try to avoid daytime napping or limit naps to less than 20 minutes (unless child is 5 or younger).

  6. Exercising during the morning or afternoon can help promote sleep. However, exercising in the evening can actually make it more difficult to fall asleep.

  7. Make sure the temperature in your room at night is cool and comfortable.

  8. Eliminate or reduce extra lighting or noise in your room at night.

  9. Practice relaxation strategies, such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery, to reduce anxiety and tension and promote sleep.

  10. If you cannot fall asleep between 15-20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing (e.g., reading). Get back into bed when you feel sleepy/drowsy.

  11. Learn to recognize sleep problems, such as snoring, sleep apnea, resisting bed time, nightwakings, and nightmares. Seek help from a professional if you are having trouble creating and maintaining a consistent bedtime routine for your child and/or adolescent. 

Dr. Emily Wald

Emily Wald, PhD is a pediatric psychologist at Thinking Tree Psychology, specializing in the treatment of youth with anxiety, mood, and behavioral concerns. Additionally, Dr. Wald has expertise working with individuals and their families to promote coping and adjustment to acute or chronic medical conditions. She has also coauthored journal articles and presented at professional conferences related to her areas of expertise.