Sleep

Getting enough sleep is really important for children's physical and emotional wellbeing. Your child will be ready to learn and have fun if they’ve had enough sleep.

Babies

Newborn babies sleep a lot! However, their sleep is unlikely to fit in with your usual sleeping pattern. In the early days babies will be asleep more than they are awake. They will wake frequently and will need feeding during the night. Getting enough sleep is essential for their development, it is the time when they can process their new experiences and skills that they are learning and wake feeling ready to learn some more!

 

Older children

As children get older, they need less sleep.

Sleep patterns change when teenagers go through puberty. Their body clock shifts due to hormonal changes. This makes them feel like they need to sleep and wake up around 3-4 hours later than adults do.

That’s why they often want to stay up late and struggle to get up in the mornings.

Teenagers need around 9-10 hours of sleep a night. If teenagers don’t get enough sleep this can stop them focusing on learning and having fun. It might make them grumpy and awkward too.

What you can do

Babies

  • Look after yourself, sleep when your baby sleeps! This way you will feel more able to cope with the broken sleep at night.
  • Help your baby learn the difference between night and day from early on. At night keep the lights low and don’t talk to or play with your baby, put them down to sleep after a feed. During the day talk to and play with you baby whenever they are awake, don’t limit household noise. Your baby will learn that it is more fun to be awake during the day!
  • You may want to start introducing a bedtime routine at around 3 months of age. Watch your baby to see if you can notice how your baby tells you that they are tired Do they rub their eyes? Yawn? Flutter their eyelids or stare into space?
  • Your bedtime routine should help your baby to calm down and unwind ready for sleep. Things like having a bath, putting pyjamas on, sharing a book or a song or putting on some familiar music or white noise can all help.
  • We do not recommend allowing your baby to cry themselves to sleep, they may learn to stop crying for you but will probably still be feeling upset.
  • Try to put your baby in the cot/crib when they are drowsy but not fast asleep whenever possible, stay with them and comfort them while they fall asleep.
  • If you are worried about your baby’s sleep it is useful to start keeping a sleep diary with key information such as:
    • The time that your baby fell asleep and how long they slept for
    • How and where they fell to sleep, was it feeding? Being rocked or cuddled in your arms?
    • Their emotional state when they woke up. Were they quiet and happy or were they upset and crying?

 

Older children

Healthy sleep routines will help your child (and therefore you!) to get a good night’s sleep.

Do the same things at the same time each night so that your child knows that it is bedtime. Use this time to wind down and have some valued one to one time together. Keep things calm and consistent!

Dim the lights and switch off the TV, games console, tablet or computer about 1 hour before bedtime. This can help your child fall asleep more easily. The blue light from a screen will keep your child’s brain (and yours) awake for longer

Reassure your child if they wake in the night. Go to them, but try not to interact too much.

Be prepared to adapt their routine for illness or any big events such as starting nursery or school, or the arrival of a new baby. Some extra reassurance at bedtime may be needed.

Keep your child’s bedroom as dark as possible. A blackout blind may help.

Who can help?

It is useful to consider these questions:

  • What are you finding most challenging about your child’s sleep?
  • Why do you think you child is struggling to sleep well?
  • What have you tried before? What worked and what didn’t work? What can you learn from this?

If you’re worried about your child’s sleeping patterns, call your health visiting team on 01525 631150 or text a health visitor via Parentline on 07507 331456.

For young people aged 11-19, our school nursing team is available to give confidential advice about sleep troubles via text with our ChatHealth service. Simply send a message to 07507 331450.

Links and additional information

Lullaby Trust, safer sleeping advice

Family Lives, sleep for newborns and babies

Understanding childhood, crying and sleeping in the first months of life

NHS, how much sleep do kids need?

NHS, sleep tips for teenagers

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