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The Recommended Amount of Sleep for Children at Different Ages
How much sleep does your child get? Kids go through so many phases; it can be confusing to try and keep up with their changing needs. It is vital, though, for kids to get enough sleep. Here, we look at the importance of sleep and how it affects children, and how much sleep kids need at each stage of childhood.
The Importance of Sleep for Children's Development
Sleep impacts a child’s development in many different ways. Children who get enough sleep have better mental and physical health, and their overall quality of life is better than their peers who do not sleep enough. Not getting enough sleep can put kids at a higher risk for high blood pressure, obesity, and depression, but children who regularly get good sleep show improvements in many areas. It’s easier for them to pay attention and learn, and their memory works better. What’s more, children who get adequate sleep on a regular basis are better at emotional regulation and better behaved. Sleep has no downside, and it doesn’t cost anything, which makes it an excellent form of preventive medicine for both children and adults.
How Much Sleep Do Children Need at Each Stage of Childhood?
Of course, the amount of sleep that children need changes with every stage of their development. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have recommendations for sleep that are in agreement with each other.
- When babies are born, they sleep all the time. There are no specific guidelines regarding sleep for babies under four months old because fluctuations in sleep cycles for newborns are common and there is limited data on the effects of sleep duration on newborn health. In general, newborn babies sleep between 16 to 18 hours of each 24-hour day. This is because during this time, they are growing quickly, and the brain is developing rapidly. During sleep, the brain builds networks to facilitate thinking and learning, and promotes the formation of behaviour. Enough sleep and the right nutrition help a baby develop physically and acquire motor skills. Note: Premature infants typically start out needing more sleep than full term infants, but it typically levels out during the first year.
- Between four and 11 months of age, the need for sleep diminishes a little bit. Older babies sleep 12 to 16 hours a day, and most of that sleep comes from naps. Some babies do start sleeping through the night at around five or six months of age, but most do not sleep six to eight hours in succession. However, napping has been shown to be beneficial, and research indicates that frequent napping helps infants consolidate memories in a way that is important for learning and brain development.
- So, how much sleep should a toddler get? Defining the toddler age range as one to two years old, 11 to 14 hours of sleep are recommended, including naps. Toddlers are learning to walk and talk, and they will likely take fewer or shorter naps and start sleeping longer during the night. Most one-year-olds take two naps a day, but you can expect that to drop down to one nap by the time your child turns two. Now is the time to establish bedtime routines, because toddlers are very responsive to consistency. Establish gentle but firm boundaries and a consistent bedtime, positively reinforcing sleep so they will get as much as they need.
- Sleep needs do not diminish much between the toddler and preschool stages. While toddlers need 11 to 14 hours of sleep in each 24-hour period, preschoolers require 10 to 13 hours. This may include a nap, but many preschoolers begin cutting out their naps gradually. As more of their sleep becomes consolidated at night, naps start fading out, with children napping on alternate days or for a few days in a row and then not on other days. Even when children are not napping, it is a good idea to get them to take some quiet time, so they can rest and recharge each afternoon. It may be wise to push bedtime earlier as well, to make up for the missed naptime.
- Elementary aged children need between nine and 12 hours a night. Younger children generally need more sleep than older elementary schoolers, and you may find that your kindergartner is exhausted by the time school lets out. Some school aged children benefit from naps in the afternoon, but this varies widely between children. One study in China indicated that when children in grades four through six took naps after lunch, they were better behaved, happier, and performed better academically. However, there is not enough research about napping, and in addition to needs varying between children, the needs of each individual child change over time. Flexibility is key in providing children with the opportunity to get the sleep they need. One thing that has been proven repeatedly is that kids who do not get enough sleep tend to have problems concentrating, and they may not behave appropriately at school. Going without good sleep for an extended period can cause them to fall behind their peers, not only in the classroom, but also in their other activities.
- Teenagers tend to get less sleep than they need. What’s more, teenagers are unlikely to ask you, “What time should I go to bed?” and more likely to balk when you try to limit their screen time and other activities at night. So, how much sleep should teenagers get? High-quality sleep is just as important for teenagers as it is for younger kids, but as teenagers have school, work, extracurricular activities, and busy social calendars, it can be tricky for them to keep a consistent bedtime. Teens need eight to 10 hours of sleep per night, and if they do not get it, they tend to feel tired during the day. Worse, many teens are new drivers, which makes it even more important that they are not sleep deprived. To determine a teenager’s bedtime, consider what time your teen needs to wake up and count backwards. The bedtime should be eight to 10 hours before wake-up time.
Sleep Recommendations for Children
So, what can you do if your children are not getting enough sleep? An estimated 50 percent of children have trouble sleeping, and severe or persistent sleep problems should be addressed with a pediatrician. In general, though, good sleep starts with a good sleep routine.
- Start with a good bedroom environment. The right mattress and a comfortable, quiet, peaceful environment can help promote a good night’s sleep. Minimize blue light from television screens or other electronic devices, to make it easier for your child to get consistent sleep.
- Establish the right habits. Going to bed at a consistent time each night and waking at the same time each morning is important in establishing a pattern of solid sleep. Make sure your child gets enough exercise during the day and the opportunity to unwind before bedtime.
- Wind down the entire household at bedtime. When the sun goes down, begin dimming the lights. Make sure everyone turns off electronic devices at least one hour before bed and consider engaging in a quiet family activity. Limit caffeine and create a bedtime routine for your child that involves things like a warm bath and a light snack.
- Keep disruptions to a minimum. Children who wake in the middle of the night should be walked back to their bedrooms as with as little commotion as possible. Don’t turn on any lights or do too much talking but speak soothingly and help your child settle back down to sleep.
Sleep Recommendations for Adults
While you’re wondering how much sleep your kids should get, ask yours, “How much sleep should an adult get?” It varies between people, but the general recommendation is seven to nine hours per night. To find out how much you need, pay attention to how much you sleep on vacation, when you don’t have an alarm set. To wake up rested, plan your schedule to get as much sleep as you get when you don’t have to get up in the morning at a set time.
Since 1972, Orange County Mattress has been providing exceptional customer service and, most importantly, a good night’s sleep. At our family-owned and operated business, three generations of ownership are still working daily in our stores, in our warehouse, and in customer service. When you are seeking a good night’s sleep, stop by our showroom for personal service and expert advice from our experienced sleep consultants. We offer next-day local delivery and professional, friendly, informative shopping experiences, all in service of helping people sleep better. For more information, call 949-468-5069, or send us an email.