Sleep : Is Your Child Sleeping Well?

Homework, sports, and other extracurricular and social activities all place demands on a child's time. Add in television, computers, phones, video games, and other media, and it can lead to difficulty falling asleep, nightmares, and other sleep disruptions.

A good night's sleep is essential for physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Quality shut-eye makes for more alert, better-behaved children, and research finds that improving elementary school students' sleep habits may even give their grades a boost -- in one study, an average increase of about 18 minutes of sleep per night led to a significant improvement in grades, especially in math and English.

How much sleep does your child need? The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, offers the following guidelines for school-aged kids:
  • Children 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours a day, including naps.
  • Children 6 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours a day.
  • Teens 13 to 18 years: 8 to 10 hours a day.
"Adequate sleep duration for age on a regular basis leads to improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health," states the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"Not getting enough sleep each night is associated with an increase in injuries, hypertension, obesity, and depression, especially for teens who may experience increased risk of self-harm or suicidal thoughts," the guideline authors add.

In addition to establishing healthy sleep habits, including a regular bedtime routine, making the child's bedroom conducive to sleep (dark, cool, and quiet), and turning off electronics 30 minutes before bedtime, a variety of nutrients -- found in individual supplements and in a high-quality children's multi -- can help kids sleep soundly.

Magnesium deficiency can cause insomnia, while too little potassium can make it difficult to stay asleep through the night. According to Janet Zand, ND, LAc, author of Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child, calcium and magnesium may help calm your child's nervous system. In addition, brewer's yeast is high in B vitamins as well as other calming vitamins and minerals.

To help your child unwind and relax before bedtime, try giving her a cup of chamomile tea an hour before bed. Passionflower tea is also a mild relaxant that's safe for kids older than four.

Talk to your child's pediatrician about which natural remedies can send your child safely to dreamland.

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