Is Your Child Sleeping Enough?

This time of year, the first week or two of the school year, many kids are walking around sleepy because they’re adjusting to a stricter sleep schedule than they had all summer.  Normally, that situation corrects itself as kids come home from school exhausted and go to bed on time or even early.  But, in general, how can you tell that your child is sleeping enough?

Dr. Sara Lappe, MD, recently contributed a story to the Cleveland Clinic website on this very topic.  She says it’s fairly simple.  Just ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my child need to be awakened three to four times before actually getting out of bed?
  • Does my child complain of being tired throughout the day?
  • Does my child need catch-up sleep on the weekends?

If the answer is “yes” to any of those questions, then your child isn’t getting enough sleep.

The guidelines for how much a child should sleep are fairly loose suggestions.  As with adults, there is some variation between individuals on how much sleep they actually need to be healthy.  Here are our guidelines, which include time spent napping:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
  • Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours
  • School-Age Children (6-13): 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
  • Young Adults (18-25): 7-9 hours

What can you do to improve your child’s sleep?  The first thing is to set a bedtime and stick to it as much as humanly possible, even on the weekends.  Also, create a bedtime routine by doing more or less the same thing before bed every night.  This can be valuable, even for older kids, to establish that it’s time for their bodies to rest.

A big problem that’s cropped up with kids over the last handful of years is screen time.  As part of your bedtime routine, put away all mobile devices at least a half hour before bed.  The blue light emitted from the screens of smartphones, tablets, and even flat panel TVs can confuse the brain and make it think it’s time to wake up.  Replace this right-before-bed screen time with independent or family reading from a book made of paper.

Finally, know your child.  If your child is regularly waking up before their alarm goes off and appears well rested, then chances are they are getting enough sleep.  If that’s the case, then keep doing what you’re doing!

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