Children, in spite of their resistance to bedtime, really do need their beauty sleep. Too little of it and they could be prone to behavior problems, obesity, and learning issues. Now is the time to reign in their bedtime and make sure they're getting the sleep they need.

I'm no stranger to the bedtime battle. From pleas for a bedtime snack, drink of water, or just one more book — I know kids are often reluctant when it comes to lights out.

But... sleep is so vitally important. Not just for us as parents (we all need that kid-free down time), but our children need to clock those sleeping hours for their physical, emotional and cognitive health.

How much sleep does my child need?

  • Toddlers: Need 10-13 hours within a 24-hour period. This will still likely (hopefully) include a mid-day nap.
  • School-age: Aim for 10-12 hours per night depending on your child. Some do fine with just 10, others clearly need 12.
  • Teens: Yes, your teen wants to stay up late and sleep in (believe it or not, this becomes their natural circadian rhythm), but school doesn't change and teens need 8.5-9.5 hours per night. It's a challenge but also a must.

What are the negative consequences of sleep deprivation?

  • Brain and behavior: Too little sleep (as little as missing out on 30 minutes per night) can interfere with memory and cognition. School work can take a hit. Also, sleep deprivation has been shown to cause ADHD like symptoms in children. And we all know, a missed nap in a toddler who desperately needs one, means tantrum central right before dinnertime.
  • Immunity: Your child's immune system can start to weaken over time. With the abundance of cold and flu viruses coming their way, sleep is not something you want to skimp on.
  • Medical: Obesity, diabetes and hypertension. While these medical conditions are under the influence of a variety of health style and environmental factors... sleep is one of them.
  • Body wise: Your child literally needs sleep to grow. Growth hormone spikes during the sleeping hours. Tell this to your 7-year-old the next time he tries his hand at the bedtime stall.

My tips for a stress-free bedtime

Set the stage for success. Give your kids a 20 minute warning that the bedtime routine is about to commence. Have a short but relaxing routine. Ours goes something like this: PJs, brushing teeth, books in bed, lights out, and snuggle a little while talking about our days.

Things I would avoid: TVs, iPads, iPhones, or screens of any kind in your kids' bedrooms.

Dr. Mom's bottom line^As you can see, too little sleep can drastically affect your child's overall health. Put it at the top of your child's busy calendar and you'll be amazed to see how much smoother and calm the days seem.

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