If bedtime is a nightly battle, you’re not alone. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, as many as 25 percent of children and teens struggle with sleep. Whether your child resists going to bed or wakes up often at night, trouble sleeping can make life harder for everyone. 

Children who get enough sleep perform better in school and show improved mood, attention, learning, and memory. Sleep supports the immune system, keeping kids healthier. It also regulates the release of hormones that help children grow and plays a vital role in brain development. Children 6-12 years old should ideally get 9-12 hours a night, while teens should get 8-10 hours a night. 

Every child can benefit by learning good sleep habits. Start by setting a regular bedtime and sticking with it, even on weekends.

Help kids wind down at the end of the day by limiting screen time, especially before bed. Playing on a phone or tablet can be stimulating for kids, and the blue light from these screens causes the body to suppress the natural production of the sleep hormone melatonin. 

Caffeine can keep kids awake, so watch what they eat and drink. In addition to common culprits like coffee, soda, tea, and energy drinks, look for hidden sources of caffeine, like chocolate. If you feel your child needs caffeine, limit it to morning hours only. You might even want to limit liquids before bed to avoid late-night bathroom visits. 

Ensure your child’s bedroom is conducive to sleep by keeping it dark, quiet, and comfortable. Dimming the lights as you get ready for bed can trigger your child’s circadian rhythm to prepare for sleep. Night lights can be reassuring for those with nighttime worries. Choose an amber-colored one to minimize blue light. Try a 20-minute ritual of soothing activities like reading a book to help your child settle down and build a habit of going to bed.

Even with good sleep habits, many children still struggle with sleep. If your child is frequently sleepy during the day, has severe snoring, or if you suspect that an underlying health or developmental issue may be affecting their sleep, make an appointment with your pediatrician. And talk with a doctor before giving a child sleeping pills or supplements marketed as natural sleep aids, as these can have adverse side effects in children.

Sleep is essential, not just for your child, but for everyone in the family! By making sure your child is getting enough quality sleep and establishing a healthy bedtime routine, you can set them up for success — not just tonight, but for years into the future. For more, visit mauihealth.org/keikisleep.