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Adequate sleep can help prevent behavioral problems in children.

Adequate sleep can help prevent behavioral problems in children.

Many parents of toddlers and grade school-aged children identify with the struggle of getting their kids to go to bed and stay there. A handful of different factors can exacerbate the difficulty of that nightly task, including nighttime TV-watching, video game play, Internet use, lack of physical activity and caffeine intake.

The effects that a lack of sufficient sleep has on different children vary. While sleep deprivation can be detrimental for brain health and memory support, one of the other possible consequences includes the emergence of behavioral problems similar to symptoms of ADHD, "including anxiety, hyperactivity, meltdowns, moodiness, poor concentration, stimulation/attention seeking, forgetfulness, inability to follow directions and difficult working with others,'" according to sleep specialist Lisa Meltzer.

How much sleep do kids have to lose to exhibit those symptoms? Meltzer states that losing just half an hour of sleep every night "'can have a measurable impact on a child's well-being.'"

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends parents following these sleep duration guidelines:

  • Toddlers (1-3 years old) – 12-14 hours/night
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years) – 11-13 hours/night
  • School-aged (5-12 years) – 10-11 hours/night

To establish and keep up with a healthy sleep schedule for toddlers, the NSF advises parents to implement and enforce a consistent routine. Having children at this age use a security blanket or a stuffed animal is also advisable.

Preschoolers should also abide by a consistent bedtime routine and schedule. Additionally, parents should not allow TV in their 3-5-year-old's bedroom.

Parents should teach school-aged children the importance of a consistent bedtime routine and the benefits of a good night's sleep. Similar to preschoolers, TVs and computers should be kept out of a 5-12-year-old's bedroom, as these forms of entertainment have been linked to delayed bedtimes and sleep deprivation in children.

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