BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. – Children who get enough sleep are more likely to function better and are less prone to behavioral problems and moodiness. “That is why it is important for parents to start early and help their children develop good sleep habits,” said a University of Missouri Extension 4-H youth development specialist.

The key to promoting good sleeping habits in children is to follow a routine, said Kathy Bondy. An established ritual makes it easier for your child to relax, fall asleep and sleep through the night. That bedtime routine might include taking a bath, putting on pajamas, brushing teeth and reading a story. Be sure the room is quiet, at a comfortable temperature and without a TV. Try to make the bedtime routine the same every night.

When children start school, they begin to have more demands on their time with homework and extracurricular activities, and they become more interested in TV and computers. These factors, along with the consumption of caffeine, may make going to sleep and staying asleep more difficult. Poor or inadequate sleep can lead to mood swings, behavioral issues such as hyperactivity and cognitive problems that affect school performance and learning.

“Teach your school-age children about healthy sleep habits,” Bondy said. “Continue a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine.” Make sure the child’s bedroom is conducive to sleep. Keep TV and computers out of the bedroom. Help your child avoid caffeine.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average teenager needs around 9.5 hours of sleep per night, yet most teens generally get an average of 7.4 hours a night, far short of the desired amount. The foundation recommends keeping an eye out for signs of sleep deprivation, which might include difficulty waking in the morning, irritability in the afternoon, falling asleep during the day, oversleeping on the weekend and having difficulty remembering or concentrating.

“Sleep deprivation can be the cause of moodiness, poor performance in school and depression,” Bondy said. “Help ensure your child’s success by establishing a bedtime routine and helping your child get a good night’s sleep.”