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How Much Sleep Do Children Need?

Home/"WVMC Voices" by Zac Woodruff/How Much Sleep Do Children Need?

I know plenty of people who say they can get by with five or six hours of sleep (some even less), but how much do we all really need? And how about the needs of our children? Are there long term health risks associated with getting less than the recommended amount of sleep?

As adults, we’ve all found what works best for our busy lives, but it’s imperative that we help our children understand the importance of sleep in relation to their overall health. Whether they know it or not, we are the ones they are counting on to help them develop good sleep habits.

This is currently a discussion in my household because my eleven-year-old son wants to have a later bedtime (many of his classmates are staying up later and later). Ever since he’s had a regular sleeping schedule, he’s gone to bed at 8pm and we’ve kept that same bedtime for our 7-year-old daughter as well.

Sleep is essential for good health, and to promote optimal health for children. Whenever I see an opportunity to teach my children something about their health, I jump at the chance. My son’s desire to stay up later gave me just that chance.

My wife and I pulled up some research from some of my nursing journals as well as popular health websites like WebMD.com and Mayoclinic.com to review the topic with our children. Kids seem to connect with “stuff on the internet”, so we showed them some of the most popular articles on the websites I just mentioned.

We explained to them that sleep is essential to their overall health, how they perform in school and how they feel each and every day. We showed our son a study from the Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) that reported sleeping the number of recommended hours on a regular basis is associated with overall better health outcomes including: improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health.

That study confirmed the following:

• Infants four to 12 months should sleep 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
• Children one to two years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
• Children three to five years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
• Children six to 12 years of age should sleep nine to 12 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
• Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep eight to 10 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health

My son made a good point that 9 to 12 hours is a big window of time. He goes to bed at 8pm and usually is up by 6:30 am, meaning by the time he falls asleep, he is probably getting about ten hours of sleep every night. Staying up one additional hour would mean he would only get 9 hours of sleep, the low end of the recommended daily amount. Right now, we are going to stick with the bedtime we have been for the last 11 years.

But, when he is a teenager, the recommended amount would be 8 to 10, so 9 hours of sleep might work just fine for him then. He might be able to negotiate that 9pm bedtime next summer, but for now, he’s just gonna have to put up with his strict parents.

The point is, our kids our counting on us to ensure they are getting the amount of sleep they truly need for optimal health. Being good parents with your children’s’ best interest at heart sometimes means being the bad guys and sticking with the unpopular, although healthy, position.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments on the topic and what you have found to work best for you and your children.

Cheers.