Quiz: Do You Make the Dream Team?

Most parents are prepared for the sleepless nights that come with having an infant, but few expect them to last more than a few months. Seasoned moms and dads know, however, that what with bad dreams, extra glasses of water, and monsters under the bed, there's a good chance they won't enjoy a full eight hours of uninterrupted sleep until their kids are practically grown up. A little knowledge goes a long way toward getting the young ones off to the Land of Nod. See how you measure up.

1. How many hours of sleep does the average three-year-old need each day?

a. Eight to 10

b. 10 to 12

c. 14 to 15

2. It's okay to let a child stay up late once in a while. True or false?

True

False

3. Hyperactivity can be a sign that your child isn't getting enough sleep. True or false?

True

False

4. Children often have nightmares just before mastering a major developmental skill, such as walking or toilet training. True or false?

True

False

5. Night terrors are extremely disturbing nightmares. True or false?

True

False

6. It's a good idea to wake your child if she's sleepwalking, so that she doesn't hurt herself. True or false?

True

False

Your Results

1. How many hours of sleep does the average three-year-old need each day?

The correct answer is b.

Individual sleep needs vary, but experts agree that a preschooler typically needs 10 to 12 hours a day. If your three-year-old refuses to nap, take a look at her sleep habits; if she's sleeping 12 hours a night, you may want to consider giving up the afternoon struggle. (Be aware, though, that she might still need an occasional nap, and give her every opportunity to take one.) If, on the other hand, she naps blissfully but resists going to bed at night, try scheduling her nap earlier in the day and cutting it a little short.

2. It's okay to let a child stay up late once in a while. True or false?

The correct answer is False.

Occasionally letting your child stay up to watch the late show may seem harmless, but the loss of sleep can cause irritability, aggressiveness, even learning difficulties. And letting him sleep in to make up the difference only makes it more difficult for him to fall asleep the next night. The best strategy is to decide on a reasonable bedtime for your child and stick to it. He'll be less likely to resist if bedtime regularly includes something he looks forward to, such as a story, a quiet game, or simply time alone with you. This kind of routine will be his signal that the day is winding down.

3. Hyperactivity can be a sign that your child isn't getting enough sleep. True or false?

The correct answer is True.

Surprising as it may seem, some kids become overactive in an effort to keep themselves awake. Give your child the opportunity to get enough sleep every day (10 to 13 hours for a two-year-old, 10 to 12 hours for a three- to six-year-old, and 10 hours for a child from age six until puberty). Schedule a quiet time for relaxation, if not a full-fledged nap, in the afternoon. And as bedtime nears, avoid active games and roughhousing.

4. Children often have nightmares just before mastering a major developmental skill, such as walking or toilet training. True or false?

The correct answer is True.

Nightmares are a normal way of working out anxiety and emotional conflicts and can be quite common during the preschool and early school years. (They may reappear during adolescence in response to new stresses and conflicts.) Reassure your child after a nightmare, reminding her that it's just a dream. A young child might benefit from reading books like In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak or Ben's Dream, by Chris van Allsberg. If your child is still having nightmares a month or two after you've taken steps to ease the stress of her day, talk to your pediatrician.

5. Night terrors are extremely disturbing nightmares. True or false?

The correct answer is False.

While nightmares occur in the later portion of the night, during light REM sleep, night terrors happen in the first few hours, when your child is sleeping deeply. Technically, he has partly awakened from deep sleep and is stuck between two sleep stages. His eyes are open and he may be yelling and thrashing around, but you won't be able to wake him and he won't remember the event the next morning. Just stay with him until he's sleeping peacefully again, usually within 30 minutes.

6. It's a good idea to wake your child if she's sleepwalking, so that she doesn't hurt herself. True or false?

The correct answer is False.

Experts advise against trying to wake a child who is sleepwalking. Besides, just as during night terrors, you probably won't be able to. If you do succeed in rousing your child, she'll most likely be frightened or irritable. It's better to let these episodes play themselves out. If your child is prone to sleepwalking, block the stairs with a gate and lock all outside doors so she doesn't injure herself or stray too far.

References

Sleepwalking in Children. American Academy of Family Physicians.

Kristen Zolten, M.A. and Nicholas Long, PhD, Department of Pediatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Night Terrors. Center for Effective Parenting.

The Nemours Foundation. How Much Sleep Is Enough For My Child? December 2004.

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