The Importance of Sleep

Young boy sleeping on a blue bedspread with starsHas bedtime become a battle? Maybe your younger child drifts off to sleep happily enough, only to awaken during the night and insist on coming to bed with you. Or, perhaps your teenager isn’t ready for bed until late, but has to get up really early to get to school on time. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the majority of kids don’t get the sleep they need—raising the risk for a host of mental, physical and academic problems.

Children’s sleep needs

The amount of sleep a child needs at night varies based on their age, daily activity levels and the timing and duration of any naps during the day. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following guidelines for sleep based on age—just keep in mind that this is total daily sleep, so subtract any nap times from this total to get an idea of how much your child should be sleeping at night:

  • Toddlers (ages 1-2) should sleep about 11 to 14 hours.
  • Preschoolers (ages 3-5) need about 10 to 13 hours.
  • School-aged kids from 6 to 12 years old need 9-12 hours of sleep.
  • Teens from 13 to 18 years old should be getting 8-10 hours of sleep.

Ensuring good sleep

It’s up to parents and guardians to make sure their kids are getting the right amount of sleep, but sometimes it’s easier said than done. Here are some tips for helping kids rest better:

  • Bedtime routines are important at all ages. Help your child develop (and stick to) a routine that works.
  • Address any fears; for example, install a night light if your child is afraid of the dark, or appoint a stuffed animal “guard” to make them feel safe.
  • Keep the bedroom at a comfortable temperature and be sure your child has sleepwear and bedding that are appropriate for the climate.
  • Set age-appropriate bedtimes that allow enough sleep. Slightly later bedtimes are okay on the weekends, as long as they’re consistent.
  • Limit food and drink, especially anything containing caffeine, before bedtime.
  • Set daily screen limits and enforce a strict “no screen” policy one hour before bed. (This is also a good idea for parents!)

Monitor changing sleep needs

Keep an eye out for signs your child isn’t getting enough sleep and adjust accordingly. Here are some warning signs:

  • Difficulty waking in the morning
  • Daytime sleepiness or lack of alertness (be sure to ask their teacher)
  • Grouchiness, especially in the afternoon
  • Sleepwalking or night terrors
  • Hyperactivity (fighting against sleepiness)
  • Falling asleep easily on car rides

If you have any specific questions about your child's sleep needs, how best to monitor their sleep and tips on how to create a good sleeping environment, speak with your pediatrician. If you do not have a pediatrician, call (888) 487-0183 or find a pediatrician near you