HIGGINSVILLE, Mo. - Sleep is as important to a child’s growth and development as nutritious food and exercise.

A set routine for bedtime and wake-up time will help children set their circadian rhythm, or their sleep/wake cycle. Kathy Bondy, University of Missouri Extension 4-H youth specialist, said routine helps children prepare for sleep.

“A bedtime routine might include taking a bath, putting on pajamas, teeth brushing and a bedtime story,” Bondy said. “It’s important to have the same routine every night.”

The sleep environment is also important, she said.

“Make sure the room is quiet, at a comfortable temperature, and without television or a computer,” Bondy said. Watching TV or playing video games in the bedroom can make going to sleep and staying asleep more difficult.

How much sleep do children need? According to the National Sleep Foundation, preschoolers should get 11-13 hours of sleep per night and school-aged children need 10-11 hours.

Without adequate sleep, children can develop mood swings, behavioral problems, hyperactivity and difficulty concentrating, Bondy said. She suggests that parent be on the lookout for symptoms of sleep deprivation in their children.

“If your child is falling asleep during the day, difficult to wake in the morning, very irritable or oversleeping on the weekend, those could be signs of poor or inadequate sleep,” she said.

Don’t forget teenagers. “Teens need about 9 1/2 hours of sleep but only get about 7.4 hours of sleep on average, which is less than desired,” Bondy said.

Parents should be good role models for their children by adopting good sleeping habits too.

“Too often adults try to burn the candle at both ends, trying to keep up with activities and work,” Bondy said. “If adults see regular sleep as important, then their children will too.”

For more information from MU Extension on a variety of family-related topics, see