Make Sleep a Priority

By Lori Brizee, MS, RD
Make Sleep a Priority

Ahhh … a good night's sleep. At long last, something enjoyable that is good for your child's health. Make sure your child gets enough shut-eye and you will provide them with an additional tool to help fight obesity. Research indicates that from infancy through adolescence, and possibly adulthood, people who get the least sleep tend to gain weight faster and are more apt to be obese than those who get the recommended amount. One theory is that fatigue leads to lower physical activity and/or increased appetite, which then results in excess weight gain.

Make Sleep a Priority

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson Ximena Jimenez, MS, RD, LD, dietitian for Head Start in Florida, sees parents as role models for their kids — if parents don't make sleep a priority for themselves, their kids won’t either. In our hectic world, getting by on little sleep so we can "get more done" is unfortunately often viewed as a virtue.

Marilyn Tanner-Blasiar, MHS, RD, LD, clinical pediatric dietitian in St. Louis, Mo., and Academy spokesperson, sees lack of parent enforced bedtimes as a problem. She works with many families in which kids stay up late at night playing video games or watching television, and eating long after parents have gone to bed — often resulting in weight problems for the kids. She believes that health care providers and the media could help better inform individuals and society about the importance of sleep.

What Can You Do?

  • Make adequate sleep a priority for you, and your kids will follow.
  • Set and enforce regular bedtimes.
  • Limit or cut out non-essential activities on school days — TV, computer/video games, texting, etc.
  • Spend the half an hour before bedtime doing quiet, calming activities with your kids, such as reading, listening to music, or talking about their day to help them wind down and prepare for sleep.

How Much Sleep Does My Child Need?

Newborn infants: 0 to 2 months

12 to 18 hours (includes naps)

Infants: 3 to 11 months

14 to 15 hours (includes two naps)

Toddlers: 1 to 3 years

12 to 14 hours (includes one nap)

Preschoolers: 3 to 5 years

11 to 13 hours (includes one nap)

School-age children: 5 to 10 years

10 to 11 hours

Teens : 10 to 17 years

8 ½ to 9 ¼ hours


7 to 9 hours

Source: National Sleep Foundation

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