As this new year starts and our children go back to school, we are hopeful for a time of new beginnings. It is crucial to establish healthy bedtime routines to ensure that our children get enough sleep each and every night. In this article, we will be focusing on the sleep needs of young, school-age children.
Are your children getting a good night's sleep regularly? Do they have healthy sleep habits and practice sleep hygiene? Or do they struggle with bedtime resistance, night wakings or poor sleep? A consistent sleep routine and regular bedtime can make a valuable difference in your child's life.
Infants, toddlers and preschoolers are notorious for resisting bedtime and sleep disturbances. It is expected that children will simply grow out of these sleep problems, but sometimes they need intervention. If you are struggling with your child's bedtime routine or sleep habits, knowing how many hours he needs a night can be helpful.
Is Your Child Exhausted?
Sleep deprivation among children is quite common. Only half of U.S. children are getting enough sleep. Problems may arise related to sleep onset, sleep duration, sleep quality or overall sleep deprivation. Is your child exhausted?
You may be surprised to learn that sleep-deprived children perform at a significantly lower grade level - up to 2 grade levels lower! Consistent bedtime routines can help your child fall asleep more easily, avoid daytime sleepiness and improve REM sleep. A well-rested child is more emotionally, physically and mentally prepared for the challenges of learning and behaving well in social situations.
As school begins again our routines are shifting. Earlier mornings, busier schedules, and more stress can feel overwhelming. Parents are struggling with the question of "how many hours of sleep do kids really need?"
Recommended Hours of Sleep for Children, Ages 3-5
The National Sleep Foundation suggests that children in preschool, ages 3-5, need 10-13 hours of sleep. This is the number of hours that can help your child feel his best and live his healthiest life. To many this may seem like too many hours, but research suggests this amount of sleep is optimal for children.
As a society, we often push ourselves and have learned to function with a sleep deficit. It is important to note that a little more sleep at night can make a huge difference during the day. The patterns we help establish for our children now can have an impact for a lifetime.
If your mornings start at 7am, then a bedtime of 7pm may be what your child needs to function at her best the next day in preschool. Without enough sleep she may be irritable at bedtime and actually resist going to sleep because she is overtired. She may then feel grumpy and uncooperative in the morning when you are trying to wake her up for the day. It is a stressful, exhausting cycle for both you and your child and this unhealthy sleep cycle can be broken.
Recommended Hours of Sleep for Children, Ages 6-12
School-aged children are growing and developing at an incredible rate mentally, physically and emotionally. They are also learning to interact and relate to others socially. All of this can be demanding and exhausting. In order to face the academic and social challenges with energy and focus, our children need to be well rested.
Children, ages 6-12, in primary school and middle school need 9-11 hours of sleep according to The Sleep Council. A 6th grader that is not sleeping enough may perform at only the 4th grade level in class. A lack of sufficient sleep causes the brain to struggle and function at a much lower level throughout the day.
School-aged children are struggling with various health issues such as lack of enough daily physical activity, obesity and sedentary routines. Sufficient sleep can help our children feel more energetic during the day and more eager to run, play and exercise. Insufficient sleep has been associated with overeating and weight gain.
If your mornings start at 6:30am, a bedtime of 8pm may be just what your child needs to function at his best in school. Moving bedtime earlier in the evening can make a dramatic difference. Help your child improve his cognitive performance and feel healthier and happier with adequate sleep.
Recommended Hours of Sleep for Teenagers, Ages 13-18
On top of increasing academic expectations, teenagers are experiencing hormonal changes and new social pressures. They need consistent bedtimes and healthy sleep habits and good sleep routines to help them handle the challenges of high school. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends at least 8-10 hours of sleep for ages 13-18.
Quality sleep can help protect teens from anxiety and depression and help them perform better academically. If you have a teenager and would like to learn more about the sleep needs of teens, you may want to check out this article on teenagers and sleep as well.
Strategies for Better Sleep
Does your child resist going to bed? Are you worn out from nighttime tantrums and meltdowns? Does your child struggle to wake up in the morning? Is your little one grumpy and irritable each school day morning?
Children who are sleep deprived may have issues with fidgeting, lack of focus, poor academic performance, disruptive behavior in class. They may be diagnosed with ADHD, ADD, and/or Sensory Processing Disorder. If your child is struggling with sleep, get actionable advice from our article 12 Strategies To Help Your Child Sleep Better.
Childhood insomnia and sleep problems are overwhelming and exhausting for many families. Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep resulting in non-restorative sleep. If your child struggles to fall asleep, there are some steps you can take to help them get ready for bed each night.
Designing a sleep-friendly bedroom for your child can help the bedtime routine go more smoothly. Keeping a consistent routine is essential in helping your child sleep through the night. Avoiding caffeine, limiting screen time and increasing daytime exercise are all effective ways to help improve sleep. Adding a weighted blanket or a weighted stuffed animal can also provide the comfort your child needs to relax and fall asleep.
Sleeping Through the Night
A sleep study found that 43% of elementary children and 29% of middle school children struggle with sleep issues. Sometimes school age children accidentally wake themselves up during the night. They may need to go to the bathroom or feel thirsty or they might be frightened by a noise or disturbance.
The problem intensifies when your child is unable to self-soothe and go back to sleep. He may get up and start playing in the middle of the night or he may come and wake you up for help going back to sleep. This is disruptive and can become a difficult cycle of nighttime awakenings and poor quality sleep. Sleep disruptions can greatly affect daily energy levels and behavior.
Creating an ideal sleeping environment and reserving the bedroom for sleep only can help improve deep sleep. A cozy sensory bedsheet can help your child feel hugged and secure all through the night.
Following a consistent bedtime routine, prepping the night before and emphasizing mindfulness and gratefulness for a positive mindset can all help busy mornings go more smoothly.
If children are struggling to wake up in the morning, it's a sign that they need to go to bed earlier at night. Finding that bedtime sweet spot for your child is key.
Prepping school work, clothing, lunches and backpacks the night before can help rushed mornings flow more easily.
Encouraging your child to focus on the now instead of dreading the future or worrying about the past is helpful.
Practice gratefulness and mindfulness over breakfast in the morning and start the day off with a brighter attitude.
Child Sleep Calculator
Select your child's age to discover the minimum recommended hours of sleep your child needs.