From the moment a parent learns a baby is on the way, providing the best possible environment to nurture the child becomes the top priority.
Parents begin researching topics such as nutrition, mentally stimulating playtime, and a safe home environment to make sure they create the best start for their child.
As newborns come home from the hospital, mothers and fathers learn firsthand the importance of sleep—for both themselves and their babies.
Adjusting to New Schedules
As infants settle from restless nights into more regular sleep schedules, parents and caregivers temporarily breathe a sigh of relief at a more predictable routine. However, as these toddlers grow into pre-school aged children at three and four years old, the influence of pre-school prompt moms and dads to ask a new array of questions.
How will school hours influence the naps my child already takes? How much sleep is needed to maximize my child’s mental and emotional development? Is my child getting enough sleep to take on the increasing activities in a day?
Luckily for parents, a large amount of research-based evidence provides guidance on the ideal amount of sleep for the average four-year-old child.
Recommended Amount of Sleep
Most adults know (and likely struggle) to aim for six to eight hours of sleep per night. But many adults most likely are not as knowledgeable about the sleep needs of their preschooler.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, children aged three to five should sleep anywhere between ten to thirteen hours in twenty hours. For those of us with restless children who fail to stay in bed for more than an hour, this number can appear rather daunting.
However, the ten to thirteen hours recommended include nap time.
Benefits of Sleep
A well-rested child will function at peak social and cognitive abilities. Other benefits include better concentration, decreased risk of obesity, a stronger immune system, and increased mental health.
5 Tips for Improved Sleep
Even for the most organized and routine-oriented parent, ensuring ten to thirteen hours of sleep can sound like an impossible obstacle—especially if a child is particularly opposed to a regular and sufficient sleep schedule.
Parents themselves often struggle to get their own recommended shut-eye and may be wondering: how can I establish this healthy behavior for my child?
Luckily, there are several actions to take to ensure your four-year-old achieves the ideal amount of sleep to grow up healthy and happy.
1. Model Healthy Sleep Habits
People with young children know that children frequently mimic their parents’ behavior—both good and bad. It is vital to avoid staying up late and prioritize quality sleep every night.
It is especially important to show your child healthy sleep habits such as: sleeping in a dark and quiet room, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, and allowing time to wind down before bed, among other things.
2. Schedule “Downtime” For Relaxation
Some children cannot stand naps and will not sleep during the day no matter how tired they are. It is important not to stress naps too much. Especially if your child puts up a strong fight against sleeping in the middle of the day.
A great way to overcome nap wariness is to incorporate other activities that allow your child to wind down and relax. These can include reading, puzzles, or coloring.
Another alternative is to remove any stimulation from their environment and create a restful atmosphere. As long as your child is in a natural state of relaxation every day, positive sleep habits are being established long before bedtime.
Finally, if you are lucky enough to have a child who naps throughout the day, naps should not exceed an hour and forty-five minutes.
By age four, these naps should only occur once a day. An important tip for both napping and downtime is to schedule it at the same time every day. Children around that age thrive on a schedule.
3. Establish A Bedtime Routine
For many four-year-olds, predictability is crucial in creating a sense of comfort and normalcy. As other factors around them are changing, like beginning pre-school or day-care, it is important to create a predictable routine.
Keeping meals, relaxation times, sleep, and wake times the same allows children to mentally and physically prepare themselves for sleep; no matter the external environment.
As we travel for vacations and family get-togethers, creating a sense of importance and predictability around sleep is key. It also makes your bedtime routine a part of the quality time you have with your child.
4. Minimize Screen Time Near Naps or Bedtime
It is easy to give a child a smartphone, computer, or tv screen to soothe them. However, this is detrimental and inhibiting to their ability to sleep.
The light that these devices emit signals the brain to remain in an alert state that is not conducive to bedtime.
As mentioned before, it is important to model this behavior and stay away from screens at least forty-five minutes before bedtime.
5. Include Playtime Throughout the Day
Perhaps the most fun and easy suggestion to foster healthy sleeping habits is ensuring your child receives adequate playtime throughout the day.
Running around and exploring the world around them offers a multitude of benefits.
Playing at the park or playground improves heart health and establishes physical activity as a priority from a young age.
Furthermore, engaging in imaginative play promotes language development and social skills for your child. Most importantly, play allows you to bond with your child and spend quality time together.
Time To Give It A Try
As a parent, it’s natural to want the best for your child’s mental and physical health. And sleep serves as the foundation. As always, make sure to consult with your child’s pediatrician if you notice any major changes in their sleep habits or behaviors. If anything, to help give you some peace of mind!
Try incorporating some of the suggestions listed above into your daily routine. This will allow you to bond and enjoy the benefits of a well-rested child as well. Before you know it, your child will be reaching ten to thirteen hours of sleep from nap-time and bed-time in no time at all!