How Much Sleep Do Children Need?
In our world of ever increasing busy schedules, it can sometimes be difficult for children to get adequate sleep. Sleep is essential to all of us for physical and mental wellness and is very important for children as they are learning, growing, and reaching developmental milestones. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the recommended amount of hours of sleep for children varies depending on the child’s age. For infants between 4 to 6 months, 12-16 hours of sleep per day is recommended which includes time napping. This number decreases to 11-14 hours (including naps) for toddlers between 1 and 2 years of age. Preschoolers from 3 to 5 years of age need 10-13 hours to achieve adequate sleep goals. Grade school children (ages 6 to 12 years of age) need 9-12 hours of sleep each night. In the teen years, 8-10 hours are acceptable.
One of the key factors in helping children achieve their sleep goals is maintaining a regular bedtime schedule. Children should have a set time for afternoon play, homework, chores, and family dinner, followed by a bedtime routine which may include reading a book or having story time, brushing their teeth, and going to bed in a quiet, dark or dimly lit bedroom. Keeping a routine for bedtime will help your child feel safe and comfortable going to sleep.
Other challenges to adequate sleep include the need to monitor screen time and physical activity. Avoid scheduling too many planned activities that will interfere with the child’s bedtime routine. Screen time should be limited for all children with no screen time for at least 60 minutes prior to bedtime. Physical activity during the day is an important part of childhood development. Active playtime for toddlers and young children and regular exercise on a daily basis is important for children as they grow toward their teenage years. Individual and team sports certainly are a fun and exciting way to achieve this physical activity, but make sure that children are not scheduled for too many activities and that the times of those sports or activities do not interfere with planned bedtime routines.
Finally, some children have difficulty attaining sleep or maintaining adequate amounts of sleep for many reasons which can include environmental, psychological, or medical causes. Some children may even require referral to a specialist or a sleep study to further evaluate their inability to get the sleep they need. It is important to speak to your child’s pediatrician when concerns arise regarding your child’s sleep. After all, sleep is just as important to our well being as what happens in the hours spent awake. As we strive to help our children be as prepared as possible for each stage of life, let’s start 2019 making a way for our children to get enough sleep. And, we could probably use some more ourselves.
Written by: Dr. Jennifer Stinson