Sleep: Why do we need it and how do we get it?
Sleep is one of the most important activities that we do in our day, yet sometimes it can feel like one of the hardest things to get done! So why do we even need sleep? Well, sleep has several benefits for us! Getting a good night's sleep helps to regulate our mood, improve our concentration and memory, restore our health and energy, and more. If we do not get enough sleep we may find that our health, energy, mood and motivation to do our daily activities suffer. This is true no matter our age! The only difference is how much sleep we need changes at different stages of our life.
How much sleep we need is determined by our age. Just like we change as we get older, so does the amount of sleep we need.
|| 14-17 hours
| Infants (4-12mo)
|| 12-15 hours
| Toddlers (1-2 years)
|| 11-14 hours
| Kids (3-5 years)
|| 13 hours
| Kids ( 6-13 years)
|| 9-11 hours
|| 8-10 hours
| Young adults
|| 7-9 hours
| Older adults
|| 7-8 hours
Unfortunately, there are times when we find it hard to get that amount of sleep. Sleep can seem difficult to achieve for numerous reasons. Some reasons your child may be having difficult time getting enough sleep could be:
- Sensory Input (room temperature, clothing/bed material, light/noise)
- Environment (too busy/messy of a room)
- Cognition (stress)
- Behavioural (refusing/delaying bedtime)
- Physical Health (frequent toileting or growing pains) or Medical Reason (sleep apnea, insomnia)
How do we get sleep?
Here are a few tips to help improve sleep!
- Have a quiet bedtime routine: Ensure that your child has about an hour leading up to bed that is their wind down time doing things that prepare them for bed. This can be to have a bath, brush their teeth, putting on PJs, and story time.
- Limit electronics before bed: Ensure your child is not using electronics an hour or two before bedtime. Electronics can be very stimulating due to the visuals and the blue light they emit. This can make the brain feel more awake and make it harder to sleep.
- Limit liquids before bed: If you find that your child wakes up frequently to use the bathroom, then try to limit their last glass of water to an hour or two before bed.
- Consider the environment: Sleep happens best when room is slightly cooler and darker. You can also explore what your child may need to help make the room more conducive to sleep. Is your child scared of the dark? They may need a dim night light to help ease their anxiety. Additionally, they may need a more supportive pillow or white noise to help them settle into sleep.
- Help them relax: Sometimes your child may be feeling too wound up or stressed to be able to sleep. You can try using calming strategies to help your child feel calm which will in turn make them sleepy. This can be done by playing soothing music, providing a massage or a soothing toy, reassuring them and addressing any fears about the dark or monsters under the bed.
How can Occupational Therapy help with sleep?
Sleep is one of the many activities of daily life that Occupational Therapists can address. Your child’s therapist can work with your child on improving sleep by assessing what is impacting their sleep, and create an intervention plan that will help to promote optimal sleep performance.
- Paruthi S, Brooks LJ, D'Ambrosio C, Hall WA, Kotagal S, Lloyd RM, Malow BA, Maski K, Nichols C, Quan SF, Rosen CL, Troester MM, Wise MS. Consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine on the recommended amount of sleep for healthy children: methodology and discussion. J Clin Sleep Med 2016;12(11):1549–1561.
- American Academy of Pediatrics Supports Childhood Sleep Guidelines. American Academy of Pediatrics. More info here. Accessed November 15, 2018.
- Children and Sleep. National Sleep Foundation. More info here. Accessed November 1, 2018
- Toronto Children’s Therapy Centre. (2020, August 16). A CHILD’S OCCUPATIONS: SLEEPING – HOW TO IMPROVE BEDTIME. More info here
- Kim & Jen. (2020, May 30). 10 strategies that work to help your child sleep [Video format]. Youtube. Retrieved from: Youtube link