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4 tips for helping kids get more healthy sleep

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(BPT) - Ever wonder if your kids get enough sleep? According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), around 25% of kids 5 and younger suffer from sleep problems. And it’s even worse for older kids: The CDC reports that over half (57%) of middle schoolers and nearly 3 out of 4 (72%) high schoolers are sleep deprived.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has worsened the problem. The NIH reports an overall epidemic of sleeplessness due to anxiety and stress caused by COVID-19, showing high rates of clinically significant insomnia (20%), acute stress (15.8%), anxiety (18.5%) and depression (24.5%). Even minor sleep deficits can have major impacts on kids’ ability to learn, and their overall health and immunity. For National Sleep Awareness Month, it’s worth taking a good look at your family’s sleep habits to make positive changes.

Getting enough sleep can be tough for everyone, especially at times of the year when clocks change due to Daylight Saving Time. Before you spring ahead, know just how many zz's your kids need to keep them healthy, happy and ready to learn.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following amount of sleep per night:

  • Ages 3-5: 10-13 hours
  • Ages 6-13: 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers: 8-10 hours

Here are tips to help your kids improve the quality and quantity of their sleep each night. The good news is, these tips are just as effective for parents.

1. Take control of the tech

Did you know the blue light emitted by phones’ electronic screens disrupts sleep patterns by slowing down the body’s ability to produce melatonin, the hormone that makes you sleepy?

There's also the issue of feeling compelled to check devices in the middle of the night. A study by Common Sense Media found that:

  • 1 in 3 teens (36%) wakes up to check their mobile device at least once a night.
  • Kids say they're waking up due to receiving notifications (54%) or to check social media (51%).
  • A majority of kids (70%) check their mobile device within 30 minutes of falling asleep at night.
  • 29% of teen smartphone owners say they’ve been woken up at night by a call, text or notification.

Your kids (and you) will get better sleep if you shut down devices before bed, and keep them out of bedrooms. One option is to create a charging station in a common room where everyone plugs in at night to help enforce this rule.

Technology can also be part of the sleep solution. For example, Circle Parental Controls’ Bedtime feature allows you to set digital lights out times for each member of the family, saving you unnecessary nag time. Circle’s Bedtime feature turns off internet access at a set time every night, and turns it back on in the morning.

“We know that bedtime can be a challenging time for parents; enforcing rules that keep kids healthy, and pleasant to be around the next day, is hard when the adults themselves are exhausted," said Anne Bryan, CEO of Circle. “Circle makes it easier to keep the rules by turning off the online distractions.”

Learn more at meetcircle.com.

2. Create a routine

Kids of all ages benefit from a predictable bedtime routine. For younger kids, a simple bath and story time combo may help them relax and prep for sleep, helping to reduce sleep problems and foster healthy sleep habits.

For older kids and teens, discuss what a relaxing pre-bed routine looks like for them. Finishing homework and shutting down devices at least an hour before lights out can help kids relax and be ready to rest. The Bedtime feature from Circle can work wonders here.

3. Set the scene

Getting enough sleep comes from practicing healthy sleep hygiene. For example, it's easier — and more restful — to sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room. Set the thermostat a little lower (65 degrees is optimal), block bright lights from outside, and if needed, consider a white noise machine to help reduce intermittent noises in your kids’ rooms.

Maintaining rules that limit screen time, shutting down devices and keeping them out of bedrooms will also reduce distractions that can keep kids awake.

4. Be consistent

While this may seem obvious, it can be hard to put into practice, especially on weekends or school vacations. But the more everyone sticks to regular bedtimes and wake times, the more likely their bodies will adapt.

When approaching a change in routine like Daylight Saving Time, plan ahead by gradually moving bed and wake times, 15 minutes per day, to the new schedule — keeping the total amount of sleep time about the same.

Discover more ways to help kids sleep better — and manage their screen time — at Meetcircle.com/march-sleep.