Are Your Children Getting Enough Sleep?

sweet sophieSleep is a hot topic with any parent, and for good reason. Read on to find out if your child is getting enough sleep, why it’s important, and what to do if your child isn’t as rested as she should be.

Guidelines

While sleep needs can vary greatly from child to child, there are science-based guidelines from experts to help you determine whether your kids are getting the sleep they need. Here’s what they say:

Infants

  • Birth–2 months need 12–18 hours
  • 3–11 months need 14–15 hours

Did you know newborns do not have an internal biological clock, so their sleep is not related to the daylight and nighttime cycles and there’s actually not much of a pattern at all? When the baby is about 6 weeks old, day-night confusion tends to stop and sleep patterns start to develop.

Toddlers/Children

  • 1–3 years need 12–14 hours
  • 3–5 years old need 11–13 hours
  • 5–10 years old need 10–11 hours

According to WebMD, most kids are still taking an afternoon nap at age 3 and most are not by age 5. (oh, how we bemoan the end of napping!)

Older Kids/Teens

  • 10-17 years need 8.5–9.5 hours

Incidentally, it’s recommended that adults get 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep per night. How are you doing?!

Why Getting Sufficient Sleep is Critical for Children

There’s no debate that getting enough sleep is critical to kids’ physical, mental and emotional well-being and development. It’s likely no surprise to any parent that kids need sleep to do their best at school and at play, and to get along with friends and family members. But, sleep might be even important than you thought. Check out these key findings pulled from some recent studies on sleep:

  • A Finnish study of families with children aged 5-6 years found that kids who slept less than 9 hours each day had 3-5 times the odds of developing attention problems, behavior problems, and other psychiatric symptoms (Paavonen et al, 2009).
  • A recent study tracked the development of obesity in young children, recording the body weights and sleep habits of kids under five years of age. They measured the kids again five years later, and found a link between sleep loss and obesity. Kids who had less than 10 hours of nighttime sleep at the beginning of the study were twice as likely to become overweight or obese later on (Bell and Zimmerman, 2010).
  • A 2012 study divided elementary school-age children into two groups, having one group go to bed about 30 minutes earlier and the second group stay up later, getting almost an hour less sleep than recommended. Teachers, who did not know which group students were placed, found that students who were sleep-deprived not only seemed overly tired, but were more impulsive and irritable than their well-rested classmates. They were quick to cry, lose their tempers or get frustrated. The children who got plenty of sleep had a better handle on their emotions and were more alert in class (Gruber, 2012).

How to Build Better Sleep Habits for Your Family

  • Use the above guidelines to establish bedtimes and stick to them. Routine is key.
  • Don’t veer too much from weekday bedtimes on the weekends. It throws off sleep cycles.
  • Create soothing bedtime routines that signal an end to the day and help busy bodies and minds to relax. A consistent routine such as bath, teeth brushing, and bedtime story will go a long way in eliminating bedtime battles.
  • Experts advise kids to get at least 60 minutes of active play each day to promote sound sleep.
  • Eliminate electronics before bedtime.
  • If your child is hungry right before bed, allow them a small snack such as a banana or small glass of milk, but avoid sugary sweets or heavy foods.

Don’t forget to review bedtime schedules when you book a babysitter for the evening.