The age-old question of any parent with children—how much sleep do kids need?
Have you asked this yourself, or been told a whole range of answers that left you more confused than before? Sleep is vital; Not only to our health but also due to the impact our sleep quality and duration has on our ability to move through our daily lives with energy and clarity.
When it comes to growing children, it’s even more important to know how much sleep is right for them. Children do a massive amount of developing in their sleep, babies especially, and since the daily routine of a child is incredibly active—learning about the world in an intense way—rest for them is necessary to productively move throughout their day.
The energetic growing and learning needs of each child of any age vary considerably. From infants and toddlers to early and middle school age, all the way up to late teens, the amount of sleep needed for each age range is different.
One of the biggest changes that happen during sleep is that our body undergoes a big transformation. Speaking to body composition experts, they say that our cells are replenishing and rebuilding in our sleep, our internal organs are doing their work to metabolize energy, detox and absorb what we’ve eaten and how we’ve moved during the day.
Beyond this, kids experience a whole other level of body transformation as they are literally growing new tissue and muscle fibers, their bones are changing and forming, and their brains evolve during these rest periods. Anyone who has had seen a baby grow knows that every day they look a little different, their body transformation is so fast!
Let’s look at the different stages of development, and the recommended amount of sleep by experts. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), and the Millpond Children’s Sleep Clinic, the different stages of child development require the following amount of sleep time in the space of 24 hours.
We all know that babies sleep most of the time. But why?
Since they’re newborns, they haven’t formed their own biological clock, or circadian rhythm, to signal when evening and daytime is. Below are the recommended hours of sleep for newborns:
1 week: 16-17 hours
1-4 months: 14-16 hours
Not recommended: Sleep less than 11 hours can be detrimental to the growth and development of a newborn.
This is when the babies are able to sleep for longer periods of time, rather than waking constantly. Though any parent will know that general sleep rhythms are not going to be the same for every baby. Below are the recommended hours of sleep for infants:
4-12 months: 12-16 hours, with very regular naps.
Not recommended: Sleep less than 10 hours can be detrimental to the growth and development of infants.
Toddlers and Preschoolers
At this stage, kids are getting more active which means the sleeping schedule is even more important. This is a time of big learning, with talking and interacting in a more social way, they need to have enough rest hours, with long sleep at night and 2 naps per day, to get enough restoration to be productive in this stage of life.
Below are the recommended hours of sleep for toddlers and preschoolers:
1-2 years: 12-14 hours
Not recommended: Sleep less than 10 hours or more than 16 hours can be detrimental to the growth and development of toddlers.
3-5 years: 11-13 hours
Not recommended: Sleep less than 9 hours or more than 14 hours can be detrimental to the growth and development of preschoolers.
They will probably start to bargain about staying up a little later now as they grow, though it’s still essential to give your child a consistent and sufficient sleep schedule. Below are the recommended hours of sleep for grade schoolers:
6-12 years: 9-12 hours
Not recommended: Sleep less than 8 hours can affect the quality of grade schooler’s productivity and learning.
Teens and Young Adults
At this age, kids are still growing and developing, especially male young adults, even up to 25 years of age. As this stage, they are also still in a quite intensive schooling, don’t underestimate their sleep needs.5 Below are the recommended hours of sleep for teens and young adults:
13-18 years: 8-10 hours
Not recommended: Sleep less than 7 hours can affect the quality of a teen’s productivity and learning.
18-25 years: 8-9 hours
Not recommended: Sleep less than 6 hours can affect the quality of young adults productivity and learning.
Healthy Sleep Habits for You and Your Kids
Since working adults generally average about five to six hours of sleep, these numbers may seem astounding. Children really do thrive when they have a regular bedtime ritual and sleep schedule, and even though we can survive the day without enough sleep, for our kids, it affects their ability to learn and interact.
Plus, we may think we are fine with little sleep but how much coffee do you have before you feel ready and energized? Or how often do you wake up and wish you had longer to sleep in?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers some healthy habits for an effective sleep ritual:
Set an example
Your children constantly learn from your actions. Be their role model and show them good bedtime and morning habits.
Asking how they slept in the morning is also a good way to express how important sleep is, and that a good sleep is a good thing.
Keep a regular routine
This applies for waking, meal, nap, play and sleep time. Your child will feel relaxed and comfortable with a consistent bedtime routine where they know what to expect. Especially around bedtime, do the same routine, whether that’s a bath, story or family time.
Try to stick to the same sleep and waking times as much as possible.
Get active with your child
Throughout the day, help them use their bounding energy by being active with your kids.
Play outside, go for walks, keep it varied and most importantly, have fun! This will also help burn out their youthful energy so they are ready to sleep when it’s time.
Strict screen time
Limit all screen time, including computers, TVs, laptops, tablets, and phones out of children’s bedroom at all times if possible, or at the very least, in the evening.
This way, the blue light exposure (which creates an awakened and energized body response) does not interrupt their sleep, turn off all screens at least an hour before sleep.
Let them have that extra 5 minutes of sleep
Ever get frustrated with the amount of time your teenager spends in bed? Maybe the word ‘lazy’ has crossed our mind or lips. High school age teens do still need a lot of sleep.
Generally, their energy usage is very high physically and mentally with their school, social and activity schedules, and they are still growing. Know that they need more sleep than you, and it could help to relax a little more about their difficulty waking up or their love of sleeping in.
Be mindful of their out-of-school activities
As parents, it’s your job to be aware of how active your children are, especially with afternoon and evening sports, lessons and play dates.
Too much activity can present a challenge for their sleep if not enough time is spent winding down at the end of the day.
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