How much sleep does your child really need? Experts weigh in

You may want to make some changes to their sleep schedule and bedtime routine.

How much sleep does your child really need? Experts weigh in

You may want to make some changes to their sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
  • Parents know the tell-tale signs of an over-tired child. Normal chatter is replaced with whining, a pleasant demeanor becomes a ornery tirade and instead of being easily pleased, everything is awful, wrong and reminiscent of the end of the world.

  • Yes, adequate sleep is vital, but for more than just cheery dispositions.

  • According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), benefits of getting enough sleep "include better attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health" which are all things that children need to do well at school and at home.

  • Additionally, not getting enough sleep as a child is linked to "behavior problems, impaired learning and school performance, mood and emotion problems, and worse health including obesity" according to the National Sleep Foundation.

  • How much sleep should your children get each night?

  • As recommended by the AASM and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants age four months to one-year-old need between 12-16 hours of sleep, including naps. One to two-year-olds should sleep 11-14 hours daily and three to five-year-old children need 10-13 hours of sleep.

  • Elementary aged kids, six to twelve years old, require 9-12 hours in a 24 hour period and teens between 13-18 years old should receive 8-10 hours each night.

  • There's something else you should know

  • It's important your child sleeps for an adequate amount each night, but it doesn't do much good if your child isn't getting quality sleep in those hours.

  • If your children are watching television, playing games on devices or using computers too much (especially right before bedtime) this can affect their quality of sleep.

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  • Dr Sarah Loughran, sleep researcher at the University of Wollongong, suggests setting a "lights out" time for devices, then creating a calming bedtime routine. Make a house rule that keeps electronic devices out of bedrooms and work to have your kids get more exercise during the day to help them get a better night's sleep.

  • Kids need enough sleep for their bodies and minds to run well. If your child is not getting enough sleep, consider making bedtime earlier in the evening (you may want to gradually adjust their routine to make the change easier for your child). Also, limit screen time or other stimulating activities close to bedtime that could make sleep more difficult.

  • Remember that some kids may need more sleep while others may need less. Pay attention to your child's moods and behaviors when they get less sleep and how that compares to when they get more sleep and adjust their routine as needed. As a parent, do what is best for your child's overall health and well-being, starting with their sleep needs.

Wendy is a regular contributor for and does media reviews. Website: for victims of sexual abuse. Blog: Twitter: @WendyJessen


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