The Importance of Having a Daily Routine

A daily routine offers a ton benefits. It helps us get through the day without thinking too much about the little things. Even more importantly, it sets the stage for a good night’s sleep, so you and your child will wake up refreshed and ready to start another happy and productive day.

The Benefits of Routine for Children

Children benefit from structure. They learn what to do and when to do it. They learn how to do things, like brush their teeth, get dressed, solve math problems and so on. There is plenty of room for creativity during the 9 AM to 3 PM school day, and in extra-curricular activities. However, routines help them know what to expect and enable them to feel safe and secure. Regular meal times and regular bed times are two of the best ways to schedule your child and keep them happy and healthy.

How Much Sleep Does Your School-Aged Child Need?

Before we talk about a sleep schedule and sleep routine, it is important to know how much sleep your child needs, and why. If your child is attending school, assume they need ten to eleven hours of sleep per day, preferably at night rather than naps (which can be hard to get during a school day, and which can disrupt a regular night’s sleep pattern). There are two stages of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM). Both are important, but REM is considered to be the most healthful and rejuvenating, allowing people to not feel sleep-deprived and to therefore put in a good performance every day. Children enjoy about 30% REM sleep in a 90-minute cycle throughout the night. But if they do not sleep long enough, or deeply enough, they can start to become sleep deprived.

Signaling It Is Time for Sleep

A predictable daily routine will help signal it is time for sleep. Dinner, homework, a bit of TV and/or computer use, all show it is time to wind down at the end of the day and relax. The trouble is that when we get busy, these routines can start to suffer, with rushed meals grabbed on the go, too much homework, and the addictiveness of “just 5 more minutes” on a game that turns into another 30 minutes or more. A bedtime routine should include getting into PJs, brushing teeth, and a few pages of a familiar old book to help your child wind down.

There should be no media in the room.

Reserve the bedroom for sleep. Cut down on clutter so they are not distracted. Make sure the bedding is comfortable and the room at the right temperature. If the long days of summer prevent your child from falling asleep at their regular time, get some blackout curtains.

Keep Up the Routine Every Day

It is okay to relax it a bit once in a while, but in general, try to stick to the same routine every day, even weekends and vacations. This will cause less confusion to your child’s “body clock” and make bedtime less of a battle.

When Should My Child Go to Bed?

In reference to school-aged children, one of the most common questions parents have is when their child should go to bed. The answer will depend on the age of the child. In general, school-aged children should get about ten to eleven hours of sleep per night, for a number of reasons.

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep is essential for all living beings. In humans, studies have shown that even mild sleep deprivation can have devastating consequences in terms of accidents, as well as poor performance at work, school, sports, and so on.

The Two Phases of Sleep

The two phases of sleep each have their own role to play in maintaining good health.

  1. i) Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) or “quiet” sleep

During the deep stages of NREM sleep, a number of physical changes take place that can help repair the wear and tear on the body. The blood supply to the muscles is increased, bathing them with essential nutrients. Rest allows a person to renew their energy. During NREM, tissue growth and repair will also occur. In addition, important hormones related to healthy growth and development are released. There is a connection between sleep and weight, so if you have a chubby child, don’t just look at what they are eating and their levels of activity; also consider how well they are sleeping.

  1. ii) Rapid eye movement (REM) or “active” sleep

During REM sleep, our brains are active and dreaming occurs. REM sleep appears to repair the wear and tear on our brains. Our bodies become stiff and even “paralyzed”. The breathing and heart rate both become irregular. This may not sound restful, but it is considered the most important sleep stage for truly restful and rejuvenating sleep. All people cycle between NREM and REM throughout the night, switching from one to the other – especially if they wake in the middle of the night. Babies spend around 50% of their time in each state, with a sleep cycle of about 50 minutes long. A school-aged child will have 30% REM sleep and the sleep cycle will usually be about 90 minutes.

Sleep Issues to Watch Out For

There are several sleep stealers to watch out for that can lead to sleep deprivation in your school-aged child if you are not careful.

  • Busyness

Children tend to skimp on sleep due to homework, extracurricular activities that crunch their schedule, and too much media on the TV and/or gaming on the computer. Make sure your child is not taking on too much every day. Set limits on entertainment. Avoid it too close to bedtime, as it may be too stimulating before going to sleep. Make sure you have a night-time ritual – getting into pajamas, brushing teeth and so on.

  • Struggling to fall asleep, or stay asleep

Overly stimulated children will have trouble falling asleep. They might even rebel and refuse to go to bed, demanding to stay up late. Some children wake in the night and have trouble falling asleep. Others sleep in only short bursts, which might result in them never reaching the REM stage, or not staying in it long enough to feel truly refreshed. If your school-aged child has sleep issues, try to discover the cause and get them back to a regular routine.

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