How to help your child get more sleep

Every parent knows sleep is important for a child’s physical and mental development. If your child doesn’t get enough sleep they can also become irritable and moody, and they may also develop behavioural problems that could affect their ability to learn and do well in school.

And now researchers at the University of Warwick have found another problem in children associated with poor sleep. According to their study, published in the journal Sleep, children who get less sleep than the recommended amount for their age have a higher risk of developing obesity.

The study used US National Sleep Foundation guidelines for children, which recommends the following:

  • Babies aged 4 – 11 months need 15 – 15 hours of nightly sleep.
  • Toddlers (1 – 2 years) need 11 – 14 hours.
  • Pre-school children (3 – 5 years) need 10 – 13 hours.
  • School-aged children ( 6 – 13 years) need 9 – 11 hours.
  • Teenagers (14 – 17 years) need 8 – 10 hours.

By reviewing the results of 42 population studies, the researchers found that children of all ages who had less sleep than the amount recommended for their age gained more weight and were 58 per cent more likely to become overweight or obese.

“The results showed a consistent relationship across all ages indicating that the increased risk is present in both younger and older children,” says Warwick Medical School’s Dr Michelle Miller, one of the co-authors of the report.

“Being overweight can lead to cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, which is also on the increase in children. The findings of the study indicate that sleep may be an important potentially modifiable risk factor of future obesity.”

Sleep better tips

So what can you do to help your child sleep better? Here’s some advice from The Sleep Council that may come in useful…

  • Encourage regular exercise – outdoor play, bike rides or trampolining.
  • Reduce caffeine such as coke and other fizzy drinks, and even chocolate.
  • Try and get them into a routine – doing things in the same order before going to bed at night will help. For instance this could include putting away toys and electric items and having a bath, a warm milky drink and reading a book.
  • Make sure the bedroom is tech free, or alternatively zone it into sleep and play areas.
  • Create a restful sleeping environment – a room that is dark, cool, quiet, safe and comfortable.
  • Make sure the bed is comfortable and that it’s still big enough for growing children.
  • Never send a child to bed if they’re being naughty.

If you need any more advice about getting better sleep for any member of the family, have a chat with your local Careway pharmacist. They can suggest simple measures to help you all get a more restful night. And in most cases you won’t need an appointment.

Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.