We all know the importance of what a good night's sleep means to a child. It allows their body to heal and repair itself. It gives the brain time to grow and develop. A good night's sleep will also result in better behavior during the day and better ability to concentrate during school. Yet some children are not getting as much sleep as they should to stay healthy and be open to learning.
Your typical infant will sleep between 15 - 16 hours a day. heir sleep is usually broking up in 2-4 hour "naps" during the day and night. Often waking to eat before falling back asleep again. As they get older they will begin to stay awake for longer periods of time to play and learn. As they reach their 1 year birthday the typical child should be sleeping through the night as well as taking 1-2 naps a day with each nap lasting between 1-3 hours. As they grow into a toddler they should be getting between 10 to 14 hours of sleep each day with 1 nap during the day lasting 1-2 hours. As children near the 30 month mark they begin to give up their naps and stay awake for the whole day. They will sleep usually for 12 hours a night (go to bed, for instance, around 7:00pm and wake up at 7:00am).
It is important to get children into good sleeping habits as early as possible. Sleep for Kids has an excellent article on understanding children's sleeping habits and how to get them into good sleeping habits at a variety of different ages. One recurring theme in each group is the importance of establishing a consistent before bed routine to help calm and get the child ready for bed. The other is that children should not be using any type of electronical device before bed (TV, iPad, computer, etc). WebMD has an article explaining why it is so important to turn off the electronics in order to get into good sleep patterns. An article on the CNN website explains how the light from our electronics gives our bodies the wrong message that it is still "light" out and we should be awake. This is why it is so important to turn off any electronics at least 1-2 hours prior to bedtime to get a good solid sleep.
When it comes to getting a bed time routine that works for your child be sure to try a few different things so you can find what works and what doesn't work. If you find that a child is more awake after bath time it might be best to give the bath in the morning when they wake up or after their afternoon nap. If a child is more awake after reading books then switch the time you read books to the morning or before lunch. Just because you've read or been told that a bath or reading books prior to bed is the best way to start a bedtime routine does not mean that it will work for every single child out there. Some children will find bathes and book reading more arousing than calming. Some children will find a nice lullaby or classical music selection played when they sleep works best. Others may like nothing more than the sound of white noise.
As each child is unique so might their bedtime routines be unique to them. The most important thing, as shared above, is to establish a routine that works and that is consistently followed every night. Children do best with routines and this includes at bedtime. The sooner you can establish a routine that works, the sooner your child should be able to sleep soundly through the night.