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6 ways to set healthy sleep habits in kids
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Health experts say it's possible to support happier, healthier sleeping habits for school-aged children even if you'll still need that pesky alarm clock. - photo by Kelsey Dallas
As a new school year approaches, parents are preparing their kids for earlier wake-up calls and readying themselves for the groans and whines that come with them.

But sleep experts say families should stop accepting that mornings have to be difficult, noting that this time of year could be the right time to implement healthier routines that could make mornings easier.

"Parents think it's normal when it's difficult to get kids out of bed in the morning but it isn't," said Dr. Judith Owens, director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston Children's Hospital, to USA Today. "Sleep loss at any age is serious business."

According to the National Sleep Foundation, school-aged children between 6 and 13 years old need between nine and 11 hours of sleep each night. Achieving that many ZZZ's can be challenging when homework or tempting video games and TV shows infringe on bedtime, but Dr. Owens said prioritizing sleep pays off in big ways.

"When kids get adequate sleep they perform better in school, they are happier and their quality of life and social interactions improve," she told USA Today.

Here are six ways to raise a healthy sleeper:

1. Be strict about bedtime (and set an alarm)

Sleep routines help kids thrive, Cleveland Clinic reports.

The medical system's list of healthy sleep habits for children includes the note, "Your child's bed time and wake time should be about the same every day of the week. A consistent wake up time sets the stage for the rest of the day."

2. Keep sleep in mind throughout the day

Maintaining a consistent bedtime requires careful planning. Parents have to be mindful about what their kids are eating, drinking and doing before bedtime, USA Today reported.

"(Healthy sleepers) avoid energy drinks, soda and coffee after 1:00 p.m.," the article noted, adding that electronic devices should be shut off at least an hour before bedtime.

3. Limit activity levels before bed

According to sleep experts, it's important for kids to release their excess energy in the early evening so it won't interfere with sleep.

"Before bedtime every night, allow your child to set aside up to one hour for calm, enjoyable activities, such as listening to quiet music or reading a book," Cleveland Clinic notes. "TV watching, heavy homework or computer gaming should not be part of quiet time."

4. Create a bedroom 'sanctuary'

The National Sleep Foundation suggests making a child's bedroom "dark, cool and quiet" and keeping electronics like TVs and computers elsewhere.

5. Be open about sleep goals

It's natural for kids to resist bedtime, especially when older siblings stay up later. Parents should help their young children understand the importance of a good night's sleep, encouraging them to pay attention to how much better they feel when they're fully rested, the National Sleep Foundation says.

The organization suggests eight to 10 hours of sleep per night for teens age 14 to 17, slightly less than the nine to 11 hours for schoolchildren age 6-13.

6. Set a good example

Parents hoping to raise healthy sleepers need to lead by example. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep per night for adults aged 26 to 64, offering many of the same tips about phone use before bed and the importance of a cozy bedroom.

"If you practice good sleep habits, so will your kids," USA Today reported.
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