Our Kids Aren't Sleeping Enough. Here's How to Help Them

Bad news: Kids aren't getting enough sleep. Good news: It's never too late to change habits

By Kristen Fischer, publisher of Macaroni Kid Central Jersey Shore October 20, 2021

As a parent, it seems like my life revolves around the sleep of my kid — or more likely, the lack of it. 

My toddler doesn’t always sleep well. Like in many families, getting my baby to bed has been an ongoing challenge. That means I struggle to get a good night’s rest too.

It was on a bleary-eyed, highly-caffeinated morning when I saw a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics pop up on my phone showing that only 48 percent of school-aged children (kids who were between 6 and 17 years old) are getting the recommended amount of nine hours of sleep a night on weeknights.

I really hope my kid is sleeping that well when he hits school age. 

Sleep for kiddos isn't just important for their parents' sanity. It's also important for the kids. Research shows kids who don’t get enough rest have an increased risk for depression and obesity, as well as negative mood, attention issues, and academic challenges. 

Kids who are getting enough Zs are more likely to have a positive outlook about school and flourish otherwise when it comes to behavior and social wellbeing.

So if they’re not getting enough rest, it is kind of a big deal.

How to get more Zs:

Want to help your child get more sleep each night? Here are six tips experts say may help:

1. Start small

“Even a small increase in sleep duration is very likely beneficial to children,” said Dr. Joseph A. Buckhalt, a professor at Auburn University who has researched children and sleep. Slowly adding time — just a few minutes a night — can help make this adjustment easier.

2. Find a routine

While sleep duration is important, regular schedules — bedtimes and wake times — are equally as important to encourage better and/or longer sleep, Buckhalt said.

3. Add naps

If your child doesn’t seem to be getting enough rest at night, encourage them to take a nap. 

4. Create the mood

Providing a quiet, dark, cool, clean, and comfortable sleeping space leads to the best sleep — so you may need to work on getting the atmosphere more comfortable for your child. (Good excuse to hit a white sale, eh?)

5. Avoid the screen

Steering clear of television and phones before bed is a common tip for better sleep, and one that Buckhalt also emphasizes.

6. Skip the stimulants

If your child is drinking soda, tea, coffee, or some other high-energy sports drink before bed ... well, that’s probably not going to lead to a good night’s rest.

I'm hoping these tips might help my kid — and me — get a better night’s rest. But I won't be giving up the caffeine quite yet.