It is not a secret that too little sleep makes us feel “out of sorts” and can account for poor performance at work or school. Many people become irritable and forgetful if they have only had a short amount of sleep the night before. Believe it or not you are not able to make up for lost sleeping hours tonight with more sleep tomorrow. This is especially true for children. They need the right amount of sleep every night if they are going to be functioning at their best.
Often parents forget the importance of sleep for kids, and it is easy to begin thinking that if a couple of hours of sleep are missed here and there it can not possibly matter. The fact of the matter is that it does matter, and it makes a big difference in the development of each child.
When children are sleeping their bodies are going through a process of repair, renewal and growth. This is true for the brain as well. These hours of slumber and rest allow the brain to process the billions of bytes of information it has received during the day. When there is less sleep than needed all of these different developmental processes can not take place in an efficient manner. Not only does it hinder all children, too little sleep can make certain conditions such as autism or ADD even more problematic.
Children and adults all have individual requirements for the amount of sleep that they need to perform at their best. However there are some guidelines concerning the amount of sleeping hours that children need according to their age. This is a helpful chart that parents can refer to if they want to see how their child’s sleeping habits are measuring up to what the professionals recommend.
From the first day, until the age of 18 months children are spending more hours resting and sleeping than they are doing anything else. This amount of sleep is necessary because their minds and bodies are growing quickly and these processes demand an enormous amount of energy. On the average children in this age group will be sleeping about 16-18 hours a day at the beginning. As these tiny tots begin to grow you will notice a slight tapering of the sleep cycles over time; by the age of 18 months most will be sleeping for about 13-14 hours a day.
18 months to 4 years
During this time children are becoming very active when they are awake and most will benefit from a mid-day nap. However no child should be forced to actually go to sleep in the middle of the afternoon. Just let them have some quiet time instead of forcing the issue of a nap upon them. A total of 11.5-14 hours of sleep each day is quite sufficient for a child in this age group.
10-12 hours of sleep every day is recommended for kids aged 5-9 and this includes the naps that are taken during the day. A 10 hour cycle of sleep at night should be ideal and will help your child feel refreshed and happy the next day. Children who are 5-9 will be much happier if they can help choose their bedtime, and every night you should enforce the rule about when it is time to get ready for bed. Although there will be a few occasions when you might allow your children to stay up later than usual, this should be kept to a minimum.
10 13 years
8-10 hours of sleep should be sufficient for older children in this age group. If your child is getting the minimal amount of recommended sleep and does not seem to be performing as well as they could in school or at home then an extra hour of sleep might be in order.