Sleep and Your Preschooler
Establishing a Bedtime Routine
Preschoolers sleep about 10 to 12 hours during each 24-hour period, but there's no need to be rigid about which 10 to 12 hours these are. The most important thing is to help kids develop good habits for getting to sleep.
A bedtime routine is a great way to ensure that your preschooler gets enough sleep. Here are a few things to keep in mind when establishing one:
- Include a winding-down period during the half hour before bedtime.
- Stick to a bedtime, alerting your child both half an hour and 10 minutes beforehand.
- Set fixed times for going to bed, waking up, and taking naps.
- Keep consistent playtimes and mealtimes.
- Avoid stimulants, such as caffeine, near bedtime.
- Make the bedroom quiet, cozy, and conducive to sleeping.
- Use the bed only for sleeping — not for playing or watching TV.
- Limit food and drink before bedtime.
- Allow your child to choose which pajamas to wear, which stuffed animal to take to bed, etc.
- Consider playing soft, soothing music.
- Tuck your child into bed snugly for a feeling of security.
A Note on Naps
Most preschoolers do still need naps during the day. They tend to be very active — running around, playing, going to school, and exploring their surroundings — so it's a good idea to give them a special opportunity to slow down. Even if your child can't fall asleep, try to set aside some quiet time during the day for relaxing. (And you'll probably benefit from a break too!)
The best way to encourage napping is to set up a routine for your child, just as you do for bedtime. Your preschooler, not wanting to miss out on any of the action, may resist a nap, but it's important to keep the routine firm and consistent. Explain that this is quiet time and that you want your child to start out in bed, but that it's OK to play in the bedroom quietly if he or she can't sleep.
How long should naps last? For however long you feel your child needs to get some rest. Usually, about an hour is sufficient. But there will be times when your child has been going full tilt and will need a longer nap, and others when you hear your child chattering away, playing through the entire naptime.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
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