How much sleep do our kids need?
How much sleep do our kids need?
The start of a new school, college, or university year brings with it a wealth of new things to get our heads around – this includes new learning schedules, new friends, harder homework, new exam goals, and new social opportunities such as after-school clubs or youth groups. But all this activity and excitement requires a lot of energy, stamina, and a positive mindset… and our ability to perform well in all of these areas is highly dependent on the quality of our sleep.
So, with most kids back to school this September, and older teens off to college and beyond, we’ve been investigating just how much sleep they need and how parents can help make this happen.
Recent research has found that the minimum sleep required by babies and young children varies from nine to a whopping 17 hours, per night:
- Newborn to 3 months – between 14 and 17 hours
- Infants from 4 months to 11 months – between 12 and 15 hours
- Toddlers, between the ages of one and two – between 11 and 14 hours
- Pre-schoolers, between the ages of three and five – between 10 and 13 hours
- School-aged children, between the ages of six and 13 – between 9 and 11 hours
The need for a decent night’s kip doesn’t stop once they hit the age of 13, either.
Whilst older kids may pressurise you into letting them make the most of the late summer evenings (trying to postpone ‘bedtime’ as long as possible given that “it’s still not dark outside”), they still need a solid 8 or more hours of sleep per night:
- Teenagers, between the ages of 14 and 17 – 8-10 hours
- Young adults, between the ages of 18 and 25 – 7-9 hours
In good news for parents, this research shows that there’s still a perfectly reasonable excuse for maintaining decent bedtimes for older children.
You may be wondering how, as parents, we can persuade kids to get the minimum sleep they need, whatever their age. To help with this, we’ve narrowed down five top tips to help you make sure your kids get enough sleep, so they wake up well-rested and are able to perform at their best:
- Promote healthy sleep habits in your home environment, with quiet time in the evenings – free from loud music, bright lights, and screen-time:
- You can restrict their use of sleep-disturbing products, such as caffeine, throughout the day.
- Blackout blinds or curtains can help kids to fall asleep more easily, and to sleep undisturbed for longer, by removing the last of the late summer daylight.
- Quiet time could include reading a bedtime story, listening to calming music, or doing some colouring in.
- Act as a good sleep role model by promoting the benefits of a good night’s sleep, and by implementing (and maintaining!) age-appropriate bedtimes for your kids.
- Skimping on sleep can result in a lot of health consequences including difficulty paying attention and learning, changes in mood, overeating and maintaining weight.
- Consistent bedtime routines help kids get the sleep they need. If they need to wake up fairly early, a late bedtime will result in them not getting enough sleep and waking up miserable.
- If your child has stopped napping, you will need to adjust their bedtime hours to make sure they still get enough sleep. This could mean sending pre-schoolers to sleep as early as 6.30pm, depending on how early they wake up every morning, to make sure they’re getting at least 10 to 13 hours of sleep a day.
- Know how to spot the signs of kids getting insufficient sleep – these include difficulty waking up, being irritable, falling asleep during quieter times of day, and sleeping for way longer than expected over the weekend.
- Teens may like to use weekends to catch up on lost sleep by not getting up until way after breakfast, but this can throw off their circadian rhythm, making it more difficult to wake up early again once the next week of school starts.
- Organise active activities for all the family, to help burn off any remaining energy – but make sure this isn’t too close to bedtime, as it could get them fired up for more activity, rather than acting as a relaxer.
- Seek a sleep expert’s opinion if you think your child may have a sleep disorder. Sleepiness can be an indicator of treatable sleep disorders like sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and narcolepsy.