Outside of healthy eating and good manners, one of the trickiest aspects of parenting is simply getting your kids to get enough sleep. But, in the end, how much sleep do kids need? And, what can happen if they don’t get enough? What can you do to make sure they get their required hours of slumber? These are the questions that every child caregiver asks themselves at one time or another.
The Number of Hours Kids Should Sleep Varies by Age
How much sleep kids need, and the way they need it (nighttime sleep or daytime naps) changes as they age. While specific sleep patterns and needs will vary depending on the child, young children should supplement nighttime sleep with one or two naps throughout the day up until the age of five or six. Babies, it comes as no surprise, need considerably more sleep than school-age children or teenagers.
Newborns (up to three months of age) should sleep fourteen to seventeen hours a day. Some will sleep a few hours more or less, but you should make sure they get at least eleven hours and no more than nineteen hours of sleep per day. Infants aged four to eleven months old should sleep twelve to fifteen hours a day, although a range of ten to eighteen hours might also be appropriate.
Toddlers (one to two years old) should get a recommended ten to fourteen hours of sleep per night including daytime naps, although some may fare fine with as little as nine hours or as much as sixteen hours. Three-to-five-year-old children should sleep ten to thirteen hours per day, although a range of nine to fifteen hours may also be appropriate depending on the child.
By the time children start school, their recommended hours of sleep start approaching what seems like “normal” to most adults. Kids aged six to thirteen should get a recommended nine to eleven hours of sleep per night. Teenagers’ (ages fourteen to seventeen) sleep requirements are only slightly more than adults’: most will fare well with nine to ten hours of sleep every night. Young adults, aged eighteen to twenty-five, should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every night; less than six or more than eleven hours can be problematic.
What Happens if Kids Don’t Get Enough Sleep?
If you’re a parent or you spend considerable time around children, you know that sleepiness doesn’t necessarily mean your toddler or five-year-old gets drowsy or asks to go to bed. In fact, it can mean the exact opposite: while adults start winding down when they get sleepy, kids often become hyper and harder to control. Increased irritability is a sure sign that it’s time to get the kids to bed.
You should also make sure that your kids get the recommended amount of daily sleep in order to avoid a host of health problems. Lack of sleep has several negative consequences on children’s health as well as their cognitive and social development. Lots of important biological functions happen while you sleep: your immune system releases infection-fighting substances, and your endocrine system releases crucial hormones, including the human growth hormone. This hormone is important for everyone, as it helps build muscle and repair cells and tissue. But it’s especially essential for children because it is necessary for bone growth. While a few nights of poor sleep won’t make a difference to your child’s height, a prolonged lack of sleep may lead to stunted growth.
The effects of too little sleep in children include mood swings, irritability, increased anxiety, weakened immune system, trouble concentrating, and hyperactivity. Over the long term, not enough sleep can impact learning and memory, and lead to missed developmental milestones and problems in school. Children who don’t sleep enough can even be misdiagnosed with serious conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
How Do I Make Sure My Kids Get Enough Sleep?
Bedtimes are notoriously tricky for parents. A few ways to encourage sleep are to turn down the lights, lower the ambient temperature, and prohibit electronic usage (TV, video games, iPads, and phones) about an hour or two before bedtime. Nighttime rituals, like a warm bath and reading before bed, can also encourage your child to get to sleep at the desired time. Finally, you should aim to have a consistent bedtime in order to encourage your children’s internal biological clock to recognize when it’s time to start getting ready to go to bed.