For many parents, the subject of their children’s sleeping habits is a conversation land mine filled with emotion, struggle and exhaustion. While bed times and routines vary greatly, few can deny the effect a good (or bad) night’s sleep can have on young minds. But just how much sleep should your children get every night and what are signs they’re in need of more? Let’s take a closer look.
How Much Is Enough?
It has been a matter of historical fact that children never seem to be getting as much sleep as the experts recommend, according to a study by Pediatrics. After examining a range of 32 sets of recommendations between 1897 and 2009, they found that the amount of actual sleep children were getting was consistently 37 minutes less than the advised amount.
Just how much sleep the experts say our kids should get every day varies by many factors, including age. According to WebMD.com, newborns require the greatest amount of sleep at 15–16 hours per day, a number that slowly declines over time. Kids between 3 and 6 should get around 10–12 hours of sleep per day, but 10- to 12-year-olds require around 8–9 hours per day. During the teen years, when kids should get 8½ to 9 hours per night, factors such as early school start times and biological changes that affect the circadian rhythm (when we become sleepy or wakeful), can greatly disrupt sleep patterns, according to KidsHealth.org.
What Does Sleep Deficiency Look Like?
When kids and teens don’t get enough sleep every day, it can greatly affect their personalities and attitudes. According to the National Sleep Foundation, lack of sleep can harm everything from your child’s memory and ability to pay attention to listening skills and their capacity to learn. Mood swings and unhealthy eating habits can arise, and it can contribute to the likeliness of illness. In fact, polls conducted by the National Sleep Foundation have found that teens with depressive moods are often found to be sleep deprived, something they describe as a “vicious cycle,” where mood is adversely affected by a lack of sleep, and then the depressed state makes it difficult to sleep. Inconsistent bedtimes can contribute to behavioral problems according to a recent study, showing that it’s not strictly the amount of sleep your child gets per night that can affect mood, tendency toward aggressive behavior and consideration of others.
Finding the Right Solution
Creating the right environment and making sleep a nightly priority can help battle these symptoms. SleepFoundation.org suggests children and teens refrain from eating or exercising within a few hours of bedtime. Turning off screens and creating a quiet, peaceful environment is also key to setting your kids up for a successful slumber. Routine is vital to helping your kids fall asleep with ease, including nighttime stories and quiet conversations. Do your kids ever have trouble sleeping because they have too much on their minds? Have them take notes and jot down their ideas so they’re no longer bouncing them around their heads as they lay in bed. Also, simple adjustments like making sure bedrooms are cool, dark and comfortable can make a big difference in quality of sleep.
Do you have more tips on how to help children and teens consistently get a good, restful night of sleep? Share with us in the comments below!