Kids, Families, and Sleep: Four Quick Steps to Better Sleep

Updated: Jun 25, 2018

By Marté Matthews, LMFT


What can parents do to make bedtimes easier for kids and families? Whether children’s sleep is disrupted by an illness, vacation travel in another time zone, or a sleep-over with friends, getting kids on a normal schedule again, with a regular bedtime can be a battle in many families.


First, learn why sleep is important and how much each person needs. Dr. Kenneth Berge explains at the website MayoClinic.com that infants need about 16 hours of sleep out of every 24. Preschoolers need 11 hours, school-aged children likely need at least 10 (but maybe more), and that teens still need about 9 hours. Adults, especially here in Silicon Valley, sleep less than the 7-8 hours they generally need. Dr. Berge goes on to explain that sleep affects the immune system, affects the nervous system’s ability to regulate concentration, memory and physical performance. If family members are grumpy and sluggish in the morning, drowsy during the day, and get sleepy when doing something quiet, the likely problem is insufficient sleep.


Second, pick your battles. Don’t try to change too much all at once. If you can, do not let wake up times drift more than 30 minutes later during a vacation. If vacation wake up times are an hour or more later than a regular week, you’ll need to begin adjusting a few days before heading back. Start by getting up closer and closer to the time you will need to arise for a school day. Drastic changes in wake times and bedtimes will leave everyone irritable, so adjust in 15-20 minute increments. Keep daytimes active and evenings quieter. Keep a regular routine with healthy snacks and predictable mealtimes. Allow for a transition period with quiet time in the evening, and a soothing pre-bedtime routine. Keep light levels lower, and turn off florescent lighting.


Third, role model the behavior you want to see. Parents’ behaviors will influence their kids’ behavior. For example: Are the parents turning the lights down low, quieting the house down, and getting ready for bed so they can awaken well-rested? Are parents on laptops and iPads until late into the evening? Are the parents only getting 5-6 hours’ sleep and typically exhausted? If so, these parents are showing kids that feeling drowsy and crabby is normal. On the other hand, turning off screens at least an hour before bedtime, reading together, enjoying some mellow music, playing a game, are all healthy family activities. Parents who demonstrate the behavior they wish to see in their children send a powerful message: this is what we do in our family.


Finally, explain to the kids that you learned something new. Explain that you learned that sleep is really important, and that getting enough sleep will help them out in lots and lots of ways, at home, at school, even with friends. Sleep keeps our bodies and our minds healthy. Sleep helps consolidate memories, so if your child has a choice to study late into the night or get enough sleep, they will actually do better on the test the next day if they choose the sleep. Help kids make a short bedtime checklist to establish a routine, including teeth brushing and a little snuggle time.


Believe it or not, getting by on only a few hours of sleep isn’t a sign of strength. Studies show that it can impair driving performance, sex lives and job performance in adults and affect kids’ social and academic performance. They won’t even realize it, until they get a few good nights’ sleep.


Get a good 8-9 hours’ sleep…and call me in the morning.

Please note that Child & Family Counseling Group, Inc. is a private organization and we are not a crisis center.  
 

​If you or your child is currently experiencing a crisis in which anyone is feeling unsafe, please contact:

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Suicide & Crisis Hotline at 855-278-4204

 

In case of life-threatening emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.

Other resources for help in a crisis

Bill Wilson Center SOS Crisis Hotline 408-278-2585
BWC’s SOS Crisis Hotline is a specialized line answering calls 24/7 from parents, teachers, and community support persons for children and youth who are experiencing an immediate behavioral or mental health escalation or crisis. They provide an urgent phone or in-person response to help de-escalate and stabilize the situation.

Domestic Violence 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
https://www.thehotline.org/help/
Advocates are available 24/7 in more than 200 languages. All calls are free and confidential.

National Eating Disorders Association Helpline (800) 931-2237
https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline
Contact the Helpline for support, resources and treatment options for yourself or a loved one.
Helpline Phone hours are Monday-Thursday from 11AM to 9PM ET, and Friday from 11AM to 5PM ET.
Helpline Chat hours are Monday-Thursday from 9AM to 9PM ET and Friday 9AM to 5PM ET.
Helpline volunteers are trained to help you find the information and support you are looking for. Reach out today!

National Parent Helpline:  1-855-427-2736

24/7 Teenline for Youth: 1-888-247-7717

Santa Clara County Mobile Crisis Response (for adults in crisis) 1-800-704-0900

Crisis Textline text HOME to 741741
www.crisistextline.org

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