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A parent’s guide to healthy sleep habits in children.
Raising children comes with its fair share of challenges, but establishing a consistent sleep schedule can sometimes feel like the toughest of them all.
Whether your toddler is sleeping like a baby (and by that, we mean waking up every few hours to demand your attention) or you’re having to drag your teen out of bed each morning, you may be wondering how much sleep your kids actually need. And at the end of a long day, when all you want to do is hit the hay, how can you get that playful pre-schooler or hyped-up adolescent ready for a night of sweet dreams?
Sleep is essential for every child, no matter how small. According to Healthdirect Australia, “getting enough sleep is vital for your child's physical health, brain function, emotional wellbeing, safety, and ability to function day to day”. It also helps them concentrate, remember things, and feel their best throughout the day.
Unfortunately, a lot of Australian kids aren’t getting the shut-eye they need. One study found that about a quarter of 12-13-year-olds and half of 16-17-year-olds were not getting the recommended hours of sleep on school nights.
But what are those recommended hours, exactly? Australia’s Sleep Health Foundation advises kids of different ages need the following amounts of sleep:
Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
Pre-schoolers (2-5 years): 10-13 hours
School-aged children (6-13 years): 9-11 hours
Teenagers (14-17 years): 8-10 hours
If your child isn’t getting enough sleep, chances are, your entire household will know about it. Kids aren’t exactly known for their subtlety, after all. But if you’re not sure, here are some signs to watch out for:
Irritability – they might be grumpy or have more frequent mood swings.
Difficulty concentrating – they may struggle to pay attention or stay focused, particularly at school.
A drop in academic performance – lack of sleep can impact your child’s ability to learn and do their best at school.
Excessive daytime sleepiness – a sudden need for daytime naps or falling asleep at school can suggest they’re not getting enough sleep at night.
Difficulty waking up – if getting your child out of bed becomes more than a contest of wills, insufficient sleep could be the problem.
If it’s just now dawning on you that your child might not be getting enough rest, don’t panic. Here are some ways you can help them get off to the land of nod.
One of the best ways to help your child get enough sleep is to create a consistent sleep schedule. Encourage your child to go to bed and wake up at the same times each day. This will help regulate their internal body clock, making it easier for them to fall asleep and wake up refreshed.
When it comes to sleep training, avoid going to elaborate lengths to get your child to drift off. If you regularly rock them, cuddle them, push them in a stroller or take them for a drive until they fall asleep, they’ll learn to depend on these things. This applies to babies and school-aged kids. If you put your child to bed while they’re awake but relaxed, they will eventually learn to fall asleep on their own.
Chances are, your child has access to a phone, iPad, computer or some other kind of electronic device. There are plenty of guidelines around how much day-time use is healthy for their developing brains, but as a general rule, try to make your kids’ bedrooms a screen-free zone. This will teach them that their bedroom is for sleeping (rather than late-night gaming or messaging friends) and help curb the temptation to reach for their phone after lights out.
A bedtime routine is an important part of sleep training. It helps signal to your child that it's time to wind down and prepare for sleep. Try calming activities like a warm bath, reading, and quiet play. To help busy parents get their little ones ready for sleep, the Forty Winks Boori Thetis Square Table and Forty Winks Boori Thetis Chair – as seen on The Block 2023 – are ideal for encouraging relaxed play in the bedroom. And to keep your child’s bedroom on-theme, the brand new Boori kids’ range offers a variety of bedframes, cots, bedside tables, desks, and more – exclusive to Forty Winks.
Boori Altona Bunk
For older children who no longer sleep in a cot (see tips on how to help them make this transition here), a firm but comfortable mattress will help them fall asleep and give them the postural support they need to sleep throughout the night. The Forty Winks Active Sleep Refresh MK2 Mattress, Firm, for example, features a three-zone pocket coil system for a well-balanced and supportive slumber, plus a gusseted top layer to promote airflow.
Or try a mattress designed specifically for growing bodies, like the Forty Winks Sealy Posturepedic Singles Denver Mattress, Firm. This range is built to provide support for single sleepers of any age, with a unique Titanium AlignSupport® system engineered to sense and respond to their body weight.
At Forty Winks, our knowledgeable Sleep Specialists are on standby to recommend a selection of mattresses that can help turn bedtime from battle into bliss.
Ready to get a better night’s sleep? Explore our product range here.