How Much Sleep Do Kids Need?

Ten-year-old Jeremy goes to bed at 11 in the night and wakes up with great difficulty at six the next morning. He is usually tired in class and wants to take a nap after lunch.

You might say that the kid slept for seven hours, and that should be sufficient. But is it? And if not, then how much sleep do kids need? In this article, MomJunction tells you about the importance of adequate sleep for children, the number of hours they should sleep and how to ensure that they sleep enough.

Keep reading to wake up and get some sleep education!

Importance Of Adequate Sleep

Sleep is more important than food or water (1).

Children need healthy food, physical activity, and adequate rest for physical and cognitive development. And a good night’s sleep is what gives their body the much-needed rest at the end of a tiring day.

But not all children want to go to bed. The battle of bedtime begins when the kids want to continue watching a movie, playing a video game, or reading a book. This often results in the child getting less than sufficient sleep on school days.

Sleep is vital for children and here are a few reasons why you must ensure that they get enough of it.

1. Growth and development

Did you ever feel that your child may have gained an inch or half overnight? If your kid looked taller than he or she was the previous night, the chances are that he or she is. Research has revealed that both in children and adults, the growth hormone is active when the person is in a deep sleep (2).

2. Brain needs sleep

Our brain is always at work, and every part of our brain is used for one thing or another, through the day. But did you know that our brain is active and at work even when we’re asleep and performs some important tasks such as (3):

  • De-cluttering the mind, or clearing out the trash!
  • Locking up the information you have gathered – yes, it helps you remember things!
  • Protecting important memories
  • Organizing information you have collected, most probably in a chronological order
  • Relaxing the muscles and paralyzing you temporarily so that you don’t act out your dreams!

3. Immune system gets stronger

Inadequate sleep can hurt the child’s immune system and make him or her vulnerable to illnesses such as common colds, and other infections (4). In fact, children who sleep well or even get that extra hour of sleep tend to put up better resistance to seasonal illnesses such as flu.

4. Optimal alertness

When we are at our best in responding and interacting with the environment, we are in a state of optimal alertness. A good night’s sleep allows the body to attain this level of alertness, enabling us to function as best as we can. Good sleep also improves a child’s attention span.

5. Protects mental health

Insomnia or sleeplessness (sleep disorders) is not just a symptom of psychological disorders. Improper sleep habits can also increase the risk of mental health problems such as depression, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and anxiety disorders (5).

6. Regulates emotions better

Does your child get cranky right after he wakes up or is in an irritable mood during the day? Chances are that he hasn’t had a good night’s sleep. Night time sleep can affect day time moods. A study found that the average adolescent who does not get enough sleep for a few days, especially on school nights, experiences worsened moods and is unable to regulate negative emotions appropriately (6).

7. Sleep is an energizer

When you have had a good night’s sleep, without any disturbance, you feel energetic and active. Your body is ready to face the day and that is exactly how children feel when they’ve slept well. Lack of proper sleep reduces production of glycogen, which provides energy (7).

8. Regulates weight

Children who get less sleep tend to gain more weight when compared to children who have an adequate sleep (8). While the exact link between sleep and weight is not known, some researchers believe that the tiredness and lethargy that result due to sleep deprivation can prevent the person from leading an active lifestyle, thus leading to weight gain.

Sleep allows our body to rejuvenate and repair the tissues, enabling faster healing. It also boosts muscle mass and synthesizes proteins in the body.

How Many Hours Of Sleep Do Kids Need?

Sadly, many parents underestimate the importance of sleep and do not let the child sleep as much as they should. When you do that, you are opening the doors for a multitude of health problems.

So the question is – how much sleep does a child need? The number of hours a child sleeps varies based on their age.

Usually, the number of hours that the child sleeps decreases gradually, as he or she grows. For instance, an infant should sleep for 14-17 hours a day, but an adolescent may sleep for half that time.
In this section, we talk about how many hours of sleep a child between eight and 16, needs to stay healthy (9).

1. Preschoolers, three to five years

Preschoolers or kids who have just started going to a playschool or kindergarten may not need to sleep as much as babies do, but they require more sleep than older kids. A young child’s sleeping hours can be divided into daytime and night-time sleeping.

Age Recommended Daytime Sleep Recommended Night-time Sleep
3 years 1-3 hours 10-13 hours
4 years 0-2.5 hours 10-13 hours
5 years 0-2.5 hours 10-13 hours

Note that a child going to kindergarten can do without an afternoon nap if he or she gets sufficient sleep at night. It is important that kids get the recommended hours of sleep to help develop positive characteristics and promote overall well-being (10).

2. School going children, six to 13 years

Unlike younger kids that stay at home for most of the time, school-going children do not need daytime sleep or naps. Also, not all children who go to school need the same amount of sleep.

Age Recommended Night-time Sleep
6 years 10 hours 45 minutes
7 years 10 hours 30 minutes
8 years 10 hours 15 minutes
9 years 10 hours
10 years 9 hours 45 minutes
11 years 9 hours 30 minutes
12 years 9 hours 15 minutes
13 years 9 hours 15 minutes

Note that the sleeping patterns may also vary cross-culturally, which means some kids are made to take naps while the others are not.

3. Teenagers, ages 14-17

Did you notice that the number of sleeping hours for a child decreases as the child ages? That is because growing children need more sleep for physiological growth and development, while teenagers and adults do not need the additional hours.

Ideally, teenagers aged between 14 and 17 should get at least eight to ten hours of sleep every night. Some teens may sleep for eight hours while others need ten hours to feel refreshed and active. The number of hours they sleep also depends on how active the teenager’s lifestyle is.

4. Young adults, 18 and above

High school and college kids need just as much sleep as an average adult does. Individuals aged 18 and above need anywhere between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. These hours may change, however, based on the activity levels of the person.

Tips To Help Your Child Get Sufficient Sleep

Developing healthy sleeping habits is all about creating a healthy routine and following it.

The child may not be tired or sleepy, for whatever reason, and may throw a tantrum when you ask him or her to go to bed. The only way to prevent such episodes is to create a bedtime routine early on. That way, you will help train the body to follow a sleep schedule.

Here is an example of a simple bedtime routine you can try.

  • Take a bath
  • Change into sleepwear or pajamas
  • Brush teeth
  • Read a bedtime story
  • Say good night and leave

Also, ensure that:

  • The bedtime is same every night even during the weekends
  • Remove any gadgets or toys with lights from the room or switch them off completely
  • Keep the room quiet and remove any ticking clocks or toys that make noise
  • Create the right ambiance by turning the lights down and keeping the room temperature comfortable
  • Leave a bed lamp or night lamp on if it makes your child comfortable

You can keep the door closed or slightly ajar, whichever lets the child sleep peacefully at night.

Your Child’s Sleeping Habits And You

You are an important part of your child’s bedtime routine. But this should be only until your child is old enough to fall asleep on his or her own. Change your children’s bedtime routine gradually, as they grow up, to enable them to fall asleep by themselves. This can be done by helping them create healthy sleeping patterns.

  • Discourage them from taking naps at odd hours.
  • Sleeping at the same hour every night helps their bodies get used to the sleep cycles, without you having to prod or push them to go to bed.
  • Discourage the child from waking up at night (11) and encourage them to stay in bed and try to go back to sleep on their own. Avoid going to the child’s room in the middle of the night unless necessary.
  • Do not encourage the child to sleep in the same bed as yours, as it can have a negative impact on the child’s cognitive development (12).

When we do not have enough time or have something important to do, sleep is the first thing we are willing to sacrifice. That is not a habit you want your child to develop, considering how important sleep is. Children tend to learn by observation and if they hear you say that sleep is not important or see that you do not sleep properly at night, they might think it is okay not to sleep.

But now you know that is not true, don’t you?

Share any tips you have on how to help children develop healthy sleeping habits early on.

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