How much sleep does my child need?
Parents know that getting eight hours of sleep is important for good health, but is that also true for children? No, because each person needs a different amount of sleep every night, and a child’s needs don’t reach those of an adult until they are in their late teens or early 20s.
Babies and young children should spend most of the day sleeping. A little more than half the day for toddlers and a little less than half the day for preschoolers. Kids in school should try to sleep 10 hours a day, and teens should try to sleep 9 hours.
What happens when kids don’t get enough sleep?
Instead of thinking of sleep as a time when you don’t do anything, think of it as your brain and body switching gears and going into a different mode of operation. During sleep, certain things happen that are important for healing, getting rid of toxins, learning, and remembering.
Studies have shown that kids who don’t get enough sleep generally display the following traits:
- Less of an ability to think and reason. It’s harder for them to pay attention, learn, and keep their behavior in check.
- Higher likelihood of mood disorders like depression and anxiety.
- More likely to become overweight and have trouble with insulin.
- More likely to get hurt while playing sports.
My child likes to nap a lot, is that OK?
A nap now and then is normal, but if your child still needs naps every day after he or she turns 5, it could mean that he or she isn’t getting enough sleep at night or has a disorder.
What is the right time for teens to go to bed?
Teenagers should start setting their own bedtimes. There are a few things to keep in mind as you talk with your teen about possible sleep schedules.
Around 13 or 14, a child’s circadian rhythm moves to a later time and doesn’t go back until they are in their early to mid-20s. If it’s too early in the evening, they might not be able to fall asleep at a certain time.
Teens need about nine hours of sleep a night. A good rule of thumb would be to count back nine hours from the time they need to wake up for school in the morning and then add 30 minutes to give them time to fall asleep.
Teenagers often have more than one activity outside of school. However, sleep should always come first. No matter how old you are, it’s good for you to sleep at the same time every night. On the weekends, try not to change your sleep schedule by more than an hour.
How can I get my kids back on a good schedule for sleeping?
Think in reverse. What time do they have to be at school in the morning, and how long does it take them to get ready? Then you can figure out how much sleep your child needs. Give them about 30 minutes to get to sleep. It also helps to have a clear routine for going to bed, like brushing your teeth, reading a story, and then going to sleep. Keep it simple. Getting used to a new sleep schedule can take up to 10 days.
What effects do electronics have on sleep?
Blue light from TVs and other electronics screens throws off the body’s internal clock by delaying the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps people sleep.
Teens’ circadian rhythms are already set to later times, so electronics make them feel even more awake later at night.
When kids watch TV or use electronics right before bed, it’s like they give themselves a small case of jet lag. Even if you can fall asleep, being exposed to blue light before bed can make you sleep more deeply and have fewer dreams. This can make you feel sleepier when you wake up.
We suggest turning off all electronics at least an hour before bed to avoid these problems.
Should I worry that my child snores?
It is thought that between 8 and 12 percent of children ages 2 to 8 snore. When a child snores, you may want to consider the possibility that they have sleepapnea.
Children with sleepapnea often complain and show signs of not getting enough sleep, even though they are getting enough. Among these signs are:
- Having trouble focusing
- Changes in mood and behavior
- Changes in metabolism, such as obesity and diabetes
Sometimes, these kids will also have other problems, like headaches. Sleepapnea can also happen in children who are not overweight.
A polysomnogram is done overnight to check for and measure the severity of obstructive sleepapnea. Several physiological measurements are taken during sleep.
Sleepapnea is usually treated by taking out the tonsils and adenoids. For mild cases, other treatments, such as treating allergies, acid reflux, and getting to a healthy weight, may be better.
Some kids with sleepapnea may need to use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine if the other treatments don’t work well enough.