Sep 22, 2014 11:00 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

We’ve all learned the hard way that a tired kid is a cranky kid. And we know quality sleep is important to support a child’s developing immune system. 

But children are experts when it comes to evading bedtime plans. Suddenly, your child is “not tired.” She’s hungry. Thirsty. In desperate need of another story. Convinced there’s a monster in her presence. 

Cindy Gellner, MD, a pediatrician at University of Utah Health, offers these tips to help you ensure your child gets the sleep she needs.

  • Know your child is normal. Sleep guidelines vary by age and by child. One school-aged child might sleep nine hours a night; another might need 11 hours and a nap. Download this tracker and find out what works best for your child.
  • Turn off the screens. The light emitted from TVs, phones and other devices has been shown to stimulate the brain, decreasing the levels of the sleep hormone melatonin. “Your brain thinks it’s time to be up,” Gellner says.
  • Keep a routine, whether it’s a school night or summer break. “Kids thrive on routine; that’s how they learn,” Gellner says. Read to your child 20 minutes before bedtime, then ask her to put on PJs and brush her teeth. If sleep always comes next, she’ll automatically begin to feel tired.
  • Explain and enforce the rules. Tell your child, “This is what a good sleeper does,” Gellner says. Be firm; don’t argue. If your child insists on sleeping in your bedroom, Gellner suggests offering her a space on the floor. She’ll choose her own bed eventually.
  • Get rid of the monsters. What do you get when you combine water, perfume and food coloring? Monster spray, Gellner says.

sleep bedtime parenting

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