Two young kids getting ready for bed

Importance of Sleep for Children

Children need sleep to grow and stay healthy. They need sufficient good sleep so that their bodies get the rest it needs to repair themselves. Sleep is also vital in regulating the immune system, making them less susceptible to diseases and illnesses. Getting quality shut-eye also means that they remain alert in the day so they can pay attention in class and learn better.

Telltale Signs of Sleep Deprivation

Think about your child’s sleep patterns. Is your child constantly falling asleep or struggling to stay awake during the day? If your child wakes up feeling refreshed and does not feel constantly lethargic in the afternoon, he or she probably has had a good night’s sleep.

If your child does not function well during the day or feels a constant lack of alertness, he may not be getting enough sleep. In addition, if you find him sleeping much more during the weekends, his body may be trying to compensate for the lack of sleep on weekdays.

What Is Healthy Sleep?

Your child’s sleep is considered healthy sleep if:

  • He falls asleep within 15-20 minutes after lying down to sleep
  • His sleep is continuous and peaceful throughout the night.
  • He wakes up feeling refreshed and alert

How Many Hours of Sleep Does My Kid Need?

The younger your child, the more sleep time your kid needs. Here are some sleep duration recommendations.

Newborns need at least 14 to 17 hours of sleep per day. A toddler (1 to 2 years) will require 11 to 14 hours of sleep a day.

A pre-schooler (3 to 5 years) needs about 10 to 13 hours a day. The amount of sleep a child of school age (6 to 13 years) needs is around 9 to 11 hours a day.

Should I Let My Child Sleep In When School’s Out?

School holidays are here! The kids are rejoicing. Does that mean it’s time for them to keep late nights? Not really! Did you know that even small amounts of sleep loss affect how children function in the daytime1?

Why not use their school holidays to maintain healthy sleep habits or even to build a sleep routine to make sure that they are sleeping through the night, as you have time to try out what works. Here are some suggestions you can put to the test.

Related: School’s Out

Holiday Sleeping Tips

  1. Fix a regular bedtime
    Sleeping later than usual, but also waking up later than the typical school day? No problem! The idea is to get sufficient hours of sleep, with regular sleep-wake times. Staying up late to catch a holiday movie treat? Let the occasional late-night be the exception rather than the norm. Try to make up for lost sleep on those days with a short daytime nap.

  2. Stick to a bedtime ritual
    A consistent bedtime ritual can ease your child into the land of nod. Make it relaxing and calm – such as taking a shower, reading a story or having a warm glass of milk. Keep the routine familiar, even when you are on vacation away from home, and you’ll be assured of lots of energy and bounce the next day.

  3. Related: The Big Sleep


  4. Create a sleep-friendly environment
    Your kids may have turned the normal calm bedroom into a “fun” room during the holidays. Remember to restore order at the end of the day to have an environment that encourages peaceful rest. Other tips are to clear those digital media devices from the room, keep noise levels down, and hang up blackout curtains.

  5. Plan the day
    What if your kids refuse to go to bed early? Chances are they may not be sleepy yet! Kids are incredible bundles of energy, and here’s how to expend their energy in the day and get them ready for bed early:

    1. Find a few places that your kids will be happy to wake up early for.
      How about taking a dip at the public pools near home or visit a park like Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden – they all open at 8am. Up even earlier? Go kite flying at Marina Barrage or visit Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, which opens at 7am. If early mornings don’t work, drop by the Children’s Garden at Gardens By The Bay, go cycling at East Coast Parkway, or try some new and fun sports with HPB-ActiveSG activities over the weekend.

      Wet weather? Don’t fret, there are sheltered swimming pools at Jurong West Swimming Complex and Sengkang Swimming Complex, or head for a bouncy good time at trampoline parks, a game of badminton at your nearest community centre or have a day of educational fun at the Science Centre.

      Too busy to take the kids out? Help them burn that energy at home. Build a tent, give them a jumping rope, playing movement board games like Twister, or crank up the music to get them dancing to the beat, supervised by their caregivers.

    2. When night falls, the excitement of the day should also wind down.
      What time should dinner be? Based on bedtime, you can work backwards to figure that out.

      If your kids still need to work off more energy in the evening, try any activity that is not too far from home or too stimulating – like go for a walk around the block or visit the neighbourhood playground. Then head home for a shower, do some reading and lights out.

      Try these activities for a few days and see if your kids are sleeping better. Not only will your kids get enough exercise and sleep well, so will you. You can even try it when you go on holiday — you have more reasons to get up early, play hard and sleep well!

Related: Are You Getting Quality Sleep?

Getting Ready for School Hours Again

Finally, to shift your child’s bedtime back to the sleep-wake schedule for school, do it gradually. Shift the bedtime in 30-minute increments each night until you reach the targeted bedtime. This gives your child’s body time to adjust.

Related: Morning Routine for School: Tips

While school holidays may be the season of freedom, the benefits of keeping to a regular bedtime is well worth the effort, and will help make the holidays an enjoyable one with kids who are energised and refreshed. After all, when your kids have a good night’s sleep, it’s like giving their bodies a mini holiday.


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References

  1. Vriend J, Davidson F, Rusak B, Corkum P. (2015).Emotional and Cognitive Impact of Sleep Restriction in Children.
    Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26055858

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