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How Many Hours of Sleep do Kids Need?

Between after-school activities, sports, playing with friends, screens and so on, it’s no wonder that sleep time tends to take a backseat in kids’ lives. Not prioritizing Zzzs can be a problem, though. Not only can it make your kid cranky, but not getting enough sleep can affect your child both mentally and physically.

 

Why is Kids’ Sleep So Important?

 

How Much Sleep Do kids Need

 

When we sleep, that gives our bodies and brains time to recharge. A healthy, well-rested body is associated with better health outcomes including improved attention, behavior, learning, and memory. According to the American Academy on Sleep Medicine, kids who regularly skimp on sleep are at increased risk of accidents, obesity, and having trouble learning. On the other hand, getting sufficient sleep is associated with better emotional regulation, improved attention, and overall better quality of life. In other words, happier and healthier kids tend to be better rested kids.

 

How Much Sleep Should Kids Get?

 

The amount of sleep a person needs depends a lot on their age. Generally speaking, our need for sleep decreases as we get older:

  • Children ages 6-12 need 9-12 hours of sleep per night
     

  • Teens ages 13-18 need 8-10 hours of sleep per night

 

Ideally, kids these ages should be getting their sleep in one large chunk – they should not nap during the day to make up for lost nighttime sleep. In fact, if your children tend to nod off or take naps, that’s a sign the kids’ sleep during the night isn’t enough.

 

Activities to Limit to Promote Sleep

 

Late-night and early morning activities are easy culprits for cutting into sleep time, so see if any can be rescheduled to better times. Time spent on screens can also get in the way of kids’ sleep, so have kids put their screens away at least one hour before bedtime.

 

Screens and Sleep Disruption

 

Kids and adults are on their screens a lot. Some of it is out of necessity, like having virtual school and work. Other times we depend on video calls to connect with loved ones and friends who live far away. Certain screen apps keep a child and teen connected with their friends, and they are an important part of their social lives.

 

There is considerable debate about how much screen time is best for kids and adults, but one thing is clear: blue light, the kind that is emitted from screens and handheld devices, suppresses melatonin, the hormone that helps us fall asleep. Kids appear to be more affected by the blue light-melatonin connection than adults. Using screens not only is associated with falling asleep later, but getting less sleep overall, and getting a lower quality of sleep.

 

How to Get Kids into a Good Sleep Routine

 

A good sleep routine starts with a good day routine. Take a look at your child’s schedule and make sure there’s time for school, homework, activities and sleep. Avoid overscheduling and consider streamlining activities that are getting in the way of sleep.

 

Here are some other tips for promoting good sleep:

  • Make a schedule. Set a bedtime and be consistent with it. It should allow your child to have the amount of sleep he or she needs and be awake in time for school or morning activities.
     
  • Turn off screens. At least an hour before bedtime, make sure your child puts down his or her screens and places them in silent or do-not-disturb modes. It’s even better if phones and tablets can be kept outside of the bedroom, to remove any temptations to check messages or posts.
     
  • Have a pre-bed ritual. Go through a pre-bed routine of brushing teeth, washing the face and other tasks that signal to your child’s body to wind down and prepare for bed. Reading a book or magazine or writing in a journal are other great wind-down activities.

 

It’s important to make kids’ sleep a daily priority. Just like you can’t “fix” a week’s worth of indulgent eating with one day of healthy eating, try not to depend on the weekends to make up for a week’s worth of poor sleep. A good sleep routine should be something that happens each day.

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