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How to Set Good Sleep Habits in Your Child

Smart ways to establish good child sleep habits and routines

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How to Set Good Sleep Habits in Your Child iStockphoto

We all know that good sleep habits are important for children. But parents' busy work schedules, after-school activities and homework can all cut into family time on school nights, and can have a big impact on how much a child sleeps.

Given the fact that time together for so many households starts at around 6 or 7 o'clock or even later in the evening on a school night, it can be tough to set an early bedtime. And since experts say school-age children roughly need about ten hours of sleep -- which means they need to go to bed around 8 or 9 o’clock -- that doesn’t leave much time for anything besides dinner, homework and reading one short book chapter together.

But it can be particularly important for grade-schoolers to get enough shut-eye. How much a child sleeps can have a big impact on her growth and development. Research has shown that lack of sleep can affect a child’s temperament, behavior, alertness, and ability to learn. Children who do not get enough sleep have been shown to perform more poorly on memory and attention tests. And an April 2009 study found that sleep problems in the grade-school years were linked to poor scores on mental tests when the children reached adolescence.

So what can you do to make sure your child sleeps enough to function at his best? Try these tips to help your child sleep well and build good school-night child sleep habits:

Stick to a routine. A bath, pajamas, brushing teeth and a few pages from a book -- whatever your nighttime ritual is, be sure to stick to it consistently so that your child knows what to expect and can easily move through every phase efficiently each night.

Limit the electronic stimulants. Don’t let your child use the computer or watch TV at least an hour before bedtime. These activities can be stimulating, and can interfere with falling and staying asleep.

Keep her room comfortable for sleeping. Bedrooms that are quiet, dark and cool are optimal for a good night’s rest.

Set aside extra time for catching up. If your grade-schooler has younger or older siblings, be sure you give each child individual time (you can switch off with your partner and alternate dad and mom time on each night to save some time).

Curb the sneaky caffeine. You wouldn’t let your grade-schooler down a cup of coffee before bed. But caffeine can also lurk in foods and drinks you may not suspect such as chocolate and sodas.

Watch your child instead of the clock. How much your child needs to sleep can vary depending on his individual needs. Some kids may do just fine on 8 hours of sleep while others need a solid 10 or more. Look for signs of sleep deprivation such as hyperactivity, crankiness and memory or concentration problems.

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