Sweet Dreams: Sleep and the Preschoolerby Sallie Porter on 01/30/14
Sweet Dreams: The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep to Your Child’s Health and Development
Dr. Sallie Porter, Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Preschool aged children need 11-13 hours of sleep each night. This means that children three to five years of age need to spend more time sleeping then the do learning, playing, and eating. Most children stop taking naps by age five, but some younger preschoolers still need naps. Without adequate sleep: children are more likely to be irritable, moody, overweight, accident-prone, inattentive, and oppositional.
One of the best things parent can do to promote quality sleep is to practice good sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene includes keeping a consistent bedtime and consistent wake-up time each day, the same quiet sleep area location each evening, and keeping the sleep area free of television and other media like computers. Developing a routine pre-bedtime ritual that includes reading a book, telling a story, or singing a quiet song shortly before sleep time also helps set-the-stage for a good night’s sleep.
Other environmental changes parents can make to help a child sleep better include avoiding bed sharing, keeping the sleep area free of cigarette smoke and other irritants, keeping the sleep area quiet and noise-free, making sure the sleep area is not brightly lit, and making sure the sleep area is cool and not too hot.
Children who have nighttime fears or are afraid of the dark may fall asleep more easily if they have their special stuffed toy or blanket to hold, or if there is a small night light nearby. Sleepwalking and night terrors are most common during the preschool years.
If your child has asthma, his or her sleep may be disrupted due to coughing or wheezing, so it is important to always give medications as prescribed by your child’s physician. Asthma triggers in the sleep area also need to be controlled including dust, smoke, insects, pets, and mold.