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6 Steps to Bedtime Bliss



62 percent of kids surveyed do not get enough sleep

With more and more things competing for your child's waking hours, it is not surprising to hear that most kids are sleep deprived. A recent KidsHealth? KidsPoll estimated that 62 percent of kids ages 9-13 do not get enough sleep and 70 percent wish that they could get more sleep.

Of those children who are sleep deficient, most required an additional hour or more of sleep per night to meet the recommended amount for children their age. Experts recommend that school-age children receive 9.5 to 10.5 hours of sleep each night.

What can parents do to make a difference in their child's sleep habits? The KidsPoll found strong evidence in support of establishing a bedtime routine. Kids who reported having a bedtime routine were:

* More likely to get the recommended amount of sleep

* Less likely to be tired at school

* Less likely to wish for "much more sleep" than they usually get

Part of establishing a bedtime routine is setting a time for your child to go to bed. The KidsPoll found strong support for parents taking the lead in setting their child's bedtime. Children who reported that their parent "decides what time to go to bed" were more likely to get an adequate amount of sleep; in fact, they averaged 45 minutes more sleep nightly than children who chose their own bedtime.

"One of the most troubling things in recurrent sleep deprivation is the effect on the immune status," explains Kate Cronan, MD, pediatrician and medical editor for KidsHealth. "One or two nights of poor sleep is not the issue, it is those children who repeatedly receive too little sleep. What many parents do not realize is that without proper sleep, kids' bodies are not able to fight infection as effectively. In addition to their physical health, sleep deprivation can also affect their outlook on life." A tired adult understands why they may have a tough day when they are sleepy - and they soldier on," she continues. "We cannot expect the same from our children. Parents need to help their children get the proper amount of sleep. In the end, it really will make a huge difference for the whole family."

Is it too late to start a bedtime routine if my child is elementary age? Not at all. KidsHealth.org, the most-visited website about children's health, shares simple tips for establishing (or re-establishing) a bedtime routine with your child.

Tips for Establishing a Bedtime Routine:

• Bedtime: Set a bedtime for school nights and stick to it.

• Prioritize: Make sure homework (or any other preparation your child needs to make for the next day) gets done first to ensure your child can get to bed on time.

• Wrap it up: 30 minutes before bedtime, encourage your child to finish any projects or activities, and begin the bedtime routine (wash face and hands, brush teeth, etc.).

• Unwind: Include activities in the routine that will help your child slow down and relax (like taking a shower or reading a book).

• Time together: Spend a few minutes recapping the day together. Not only is this a great chance to catch up with your child, but your voice and presence will help your child to relax.

• Goodnight: Say goodnight and remind your child to stay quiet and in bed.

The KidsHealth KidsPoll on Sleep surveyed 1,187 children ages 9 to 13 across the U.S. at 10 member sites of the National Association of Health Education Centers (NAHEC). The survey was conducted by researchers from the Department of Health Education and Recreation, Southern Illinois University Carbondale.