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okay kids, it's bedtime - header image

As parents, we’re very aware of the health risks for our children from everyday habits like too many "treat" foods, too many sugary drinks or not being active enough. But did you know that sleep is also important for children’s health? Children need sleep to help them grow and develop healthily – not getting enough can be another factor in them becoming overweight as they get older. Also, too much screen time – whether on TV, games consoles, smartphones or tablets is also impacting on children’s sleep patterns and length of sleep.

Having a regular bedtime routine for your children can be difficult, especially if you’re busy with your own work, household chores, their homework and everything else that parents have to deal with. But it’s so important to have a regular routine at bedtime and it can really help improve their sleep.

Figure out a bedtime routine that suits you and your child and try to stick to it – it helps our body clocks develop into their natural, regular rhythm. If you’ve got questions around sleep, why not read our FAQs?

Here are some other tips to help you set a good bedtime routine:

Have a regular routine for bedtime

  • Having wind-down time (at least 40 minutes) is really important in getting ready for bed, as it helps you all to relax in the evening, so plan ahead. Avoid physical activity during this time. Fit in plenty of activity earlier in the day so that children are physically tired
  • Try to have your main meals two hours before bedtime - some active kids may need a small snack before bed-time too
  • A warm bath can help relax children and help them get ready for rest
  • For younger children, read a story with them or listen to some gentle music
  • For older children, read a book or magazine

 

Dr Fiona Healy, Consultant General & Respiratory Paediatrician, Temple Street Children’s University Hospital explains how to set up a good bedtime routine for different aged kids.

Make bedtime screen-free time

  • Devices like TVs, laptops, games consoles, tablets and smartphones affect children’s sleep habits – get in the habit of turning them off at least one hour before bedtime
  • Keep all electronic devices elsewhere; your child’s room should be a calm, relaxing place
  • If your children watch some TV before bedtime, choose something that is calm and relaxing

Create a sleep-friendly environment

  • Having a bedroom that’s sleep-friendly can really help – so have it dark, quiet, comfortable and cool
  • Thick curtains or a blackout blind can help with any outside light during the summer months. Just make sure they are installed safely.
  • And a comfortable mattress and bed helps too – it all adds to having an environment that’s sleep-friendly

 

Dr John Sharry, psychologist and parenting expert, explains how TVs, mobiles and computers in children's bedrooms can effect the ease of falling asleep.

Aim to get enough sleep for your child’s age

Children of different age need different amounts of sleep and while there are no exact amounts, in general, children aged between 5 and 10 need at least 10 hours of sleep - this of course can vary between children. Aim for:

  • 11+ hours for under 5 year olds
  • 10+ hours for over 5 year olds
  • 9+ hours for over 10 year olds

hours sleep needed for children

 

© The Food Safety Promotion Board