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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How Much Is Enough? - A Post by our Health & Wellness Consultant, Ashley Williams, R.N, B.N

One more show? One more snack? One more story? One more song? One more drink? One more hug? One more potty break? One more kiss? One more, one more, one more! Anyone that has had the joy…privilege…task…chore?? of putting a preschooler to bed has no doubt heard a similar list of demands put forth by these little master negotiators! Not to mention if this part of your nightly routine as a parent. So what’s the big deal? Why not just give in? So what if it pushes bedtime back a few minutes, or an hour even…it makes them happy, it avoids a meltdown, and they’re still getting lots of sleep! Right?

It may surprise many, that the recommended amount of sleep for a 3 year old is 12 hours per night and that by the age of 4, that requirement is still 11.5 hours! (Healthy Parents, Healthy Children: The Early Years, 2012) Different people need different amounts of sleep, and while many adults seem to thrive on 6-7 hours/night, this is not true of children. As referenced in an earlier post by Mrs. P, we cannot simply treat children as ‘miniature adults’, and when we do we can end up with big problems. According to Dr. Jill Ravanello, sleep deprived children can be difficult to parent.

The link between lack of sleep and a child’s behavior isn’t always obvious, and may manifest as hyperactivity and extremes in behaviour (  For example children that are sleep deprived may have difficulty controlling their emotions making them disagreeable, bossy, demanding and resistant to guidance. Lack of sleep has also been linked to attention problems and poor academic performance (Dr. Jill Ravanello).

In order to combat the negative effects of insufficient sleep, experts recommend establishing a bedtime routine. One of the most important tips for a successful bedtime routine? Experts in the field encourage parents to limit screen time, and most importantly, to avoid screen time including TV for 90 minutes before your child should be sleeping.  Incorporating this one concept into your child’s routine could put you on your way to putting an end to all of the ‘one mores’ and gaining one more precious hour of sleep for your little one!

If you feel that you may have a sleep deprived child, or are struggling to establish a successful bedtime routine please take a few minutes to read the links provided in this post,  see the parent information board at BELA for resources or ask our staff about available support through Alberta Health Services!

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