Getting your kids to follow a typical sleeping schedule may seem impossible for parents. With all the different daily schedules that kids have, it may seem difficult to get them to settle into a regular sleeping schedule. When you’re trying to get them into a routine, the first question you may be asking — how much sleep do children need?
Sometimes your kids will want to seemingly spend their whole days sleeping, other times they’ll want to stay up all night playing video games or watching TV. It can be a struggle to get them to do the same thing night after night and get themselves into a routine where it becomes a normal bedtime for them. But getting a routine going with the optimal amount of sleep is the best way to make sure your kids are getting enough sleep regularly.
How Much Sleep do Kids Need?
Asking how much sleep children need is not a question easily answered. There is no strict rule for the number of hours that kids need to stay asleep, and the suggested amounts of kids’ sleep time vary based on age. The typical trend that you will see is that younger kids, like toddlers, will usually need more sleep than older kids like teenagers. Although there is no perfect amount of time that kids should sleep, there are some widely accepted guidelines on the topic.
The general suggestions for how much sleep toddlers need is just about 12 hours a night; kids between the ages of 3 and 6 need about 10-12 hours per night; children aged between 7 and 12 years old should get 10-11 hours; teenagers should be sleeping for around 8-9 hours every night.
As you can see from the generally accepted values above, toddlers should sleep nearly 50% more than teenagers do, and as your kids get older they will typically need less sleep. Now of course these aren’t strict rules, so the day your two-year-old turns three, you shouldn’t cut their sleep schedule from 12 hours down to 10-11 hours. It should be a gradual decrease in the number of hours they stay asleep as they age.
Why do Children Need More Sleep Than Adults
As you read through the average number of hours that kids are supposed to sleep every night, you probably noticed how all of the numbers are higher than the 7-9 hours that adults sleep on average. So why do children need to spend more time sleeping than adults? The reasons have to do with the importance of sleep on a growing body.
Sleeping is essential for both the human body and mind. Not only does sleeping make you feel much better physically, scientists believe that your brain remains active through the night sifting through and sorting important information from the day as well as replenishing its own chemicals lost while awake.
As adults, our bodies are typically done physically growing and our mental growth is happening at a slower rate than children. Think about a toddler, how much they grow physically and mentally in the first couple of years of their life. This is why they need so much extra sleep — they need the time to recover and recharge from the physical and mental exhausting that’s accompanied by simply growing up.
The bottom line is that sleep is necessary for our bodies to recharge, our brains to develop correctly, and for us to feel ready to go the next day. Kids need more time to recharge as they’re growing at a much faster rate both physically and mentally than we are as adults.
What Happens if They Don’t Get Enough Sleep?
Due to how important sleep is for everyone, but especially children, sleep deprivation can lead to a slew of potential issues moving forward. One night here and there without a child getting enough sleep isn’t going to have major negative consequences, but regularly not getting enough sleep can affect a child’s physical and mental growth and performance. If a child doesn’t get enough sleep regularly, they may likely start developing behavioral issues, worsening school performance, bad moods, and other health issues.
It’s also important to remember that the quality of sleep is just as important as the number of hours spent sleeping. Nine hours of sound, quality sleep will be better for your kids than 10 hours of restless, hyperactive sleep. So it’s important to know that your kids are getting both enough sleep in general, as well as enough quality sleep.
Help Your Kids Get on a Sleep Schedule
The best way to ensure that your kids get enough sleep is to make sleep important for everyone in the family. If your children see their parents stressing the importance of sleep, chances are they will see it as being more important as well.
Especially with younger kids, try to get them into a routine where they follow a schedule depending on their typical activities. For example, if you have a child in 3rd grade (8-9 years old), it is recommended that they get 10-11 hours of sleep. So if they need to get up at 6:30 am to get ready for school, they should be in bed by around 8:00 pm or so at night. This would be 10.5 hours of sleep on average, right in the middle of the suggested guidelines.
Of course, it isn’t always possible to follow these guidelines. If your kid plays sports and gets home late, or you work late into the evenings and can’t get them fed and in bed by 8:00 pm, it’s okay! The important thing is to make sure that your kids are following a typical routine for sleep that their bodies can acclimate to.
Try limiting screen time late at night, maybe have them shower the night before so they can sleep a little later in the morning, whatever makes the most sense for you. The main thing you should do is try to ensure your kids can get sufficient hours of quality sleep energy night.