The amount of sleep needed to function best varies greatly from one child to another. Sleep needs are highly individual: One child may only need 10 hours, while another child of the same age may need 12 hours to be happy and most productive.
A child’s basal sleep need – the amount of sleep their bodies need on a regular basis for optimal performance – is a result of a child’s inborn genetic traits and temperament. Sleep debt , the accumulated sleep that is lost to poor sleep habits, sickness, awakenings due to environmental factors or other causes, is impacted by lifestyle and health changes.
While parents can help children prevent sleep debt, their child’s inborn basal sleep need is something that cannot be changed. Understanding that a high-spirited child may need less sleep than a more sensitive child who needs more time to recharge can help parents better prevent sleep debt and support their child’s sleep needs.
Children need a lot more sleep than parents think.
According to the National Sleep Foundations 2004 Sleep in America poll, children, on average, are not sleeping enough. American children are falling below the recommended hours of sleep needed for their age group by two to three hours! With this deficit, there are bound to be behavioral issues during the daytime simply due to children being too tired.
Though research cannot pinpoint an exact amount of sleep each child needs, the following table identifies the recommended hours of sleep most experts have agreed upon.
How Much Sleep Do Kids Need?
Recommended Hours of Sleep Child Need per Day (Range includes naps and night time sleep combined):
- Infants three-11 months, 14-15 hours
- Toddlers 12-35 months, 12-14 hours
- Preschoolers three to five years, 11-13 hours
- School-aged children (grades one through five), 10-11 hours
Finding Your Child’s Optimal Sleep Duration
If you are wondering whether your child is getting enough sleep, keep a sleep diary for a few weeks. If you need to wake your child in the morning consistently he is not getting enough sleep. Push bedtime up in 15 minute increments a few times a week until you reach your desired goal.
Pay attention to your child’s individual sleep needs by assessing how they feel on different amounts of sleep. Are they productive, healthy and happy with less sleep? Or does it take them a full eleven hours of quality ZZZs?
Most importantly, make sleep a priority for your family to ensure your child is getting the sleep they need.
A Lullaby for Good Health from the American Academy of Pediatrics