Part 4 – School aged children (6-12 years)
by Julia Gaines MD, FAAP
Kids, Kids, Kids
So, now you have a big kid – an interesting, smart, cool person who can tie their own shoes and brush their own teeth. So all those sleep problems should be old news, right? Well, sometimes. Older children generally have fewer sleep problems than little kids but they can still suffer from nightmares, sleep walking, bedtime anxiety, and insomnia. They need about 9-10 hours a sleep a night and are now impacted by a school schedule.
- Bedtimes are still important, especially for the younger kids. Given their druthers, most kids will stay up until they pass out, so parental enforcement of a reasonable bedtime is still vital. As they get older, most kids will start to resist being “tucked in” every night, but it’s fine to continue the ritual as long as everyone wants it.
- The bedtime routine is probably less vital as they get older, especially if your child has been well conditioned to this point. However, if he starts to have trouble falling asleep, a consistent calming routine can be very helpful.
- If your child still uses a night light or other sleep aide, this is a good time to consider weaning her off of it. After all, this is the age when kids start spending the night with friends and may want to go off to sleep away camp and the other people in the room might not appreciate the Hello Kitty night light.
- The biggest sleep bugaboo at this age involves electronics. It is still recommended that children NOT have a TV in their room. Beyond the problem of them watching it after you’ve gone to sleep, how are you going to monitor what they’re watching if they’re off in their bedroom? As for phones, tablets, video game players, and all the other stuff, we adults don’t even know how to turn on, I firmly believe they should all be collected by the parent before bed. You know how hard it is to get a kid to turn them off while you’re standing there. What are the odds they’re going to self-regulate their use when you’re not even there?
- As kids get older, they generally want to stay up later and sleep in on weekends and holidays. While this is okay to a point, remember that our brains get used to a certain schedule and that shaking up that schedule every week can backfire on a kid. If your child has trouble going to sleep on time on Sunday night and is a bear to wake up on Monday morning, try to keep their sleep and wake schedule fairly consistent throughout the week. A sleep deprived kid is usually not a good student.
Enjoy these relatively calm school years. Set those good sleep habits, catch up on the sleep you’ve been missing for the past ten years, and get ready for the invasion of the teenagers!