How Much Sleep Does My Child Need?

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When children and adolescents don't get enough sleep, they lack attention and the ability to regulate their emotions and behaviors.  They become difficult and moody.  The National Sleep Foundation has these recommendations for how long your child should be sleeping:

Infants typically sleep 9-12 hours a night with 1-4 naps a day.
Toddlers need about 11-14 hours in a 24-hour period.
Preschoolers age 3 to 5 typically sleep 11-13 hours a night, with naps decreasing as they age.

School age children (6-13 years) need 9-11 hours of sleep.
Teens need 8 to 10 hours a night, but only 15% of them get as much as 8 ½ hours.

Some ages have special problems. “Many toddlers experience sleep problems including resisting going to bed and nighttime awakenings. Nighttime fears and nightmares are also common,” says the Foundation. “Many factors can lead to sleep problems. Toddlers' drive for independence and an increase in their motor, cognitive and social abilities can interfere with sleep. In addition, their ability to get out of bed, separation anxiety, the need for autonomy and the development of the child's imagination can lead to sleep problems. Daytime sleepiness and behavior problems may signal poor sleep or a sleep problem.”

At all ages, the Foundation stresses the importance of:

• Not having a television or any electronics in the bedroom
• Having a cool, quiet, dark bedroom
• Going to bed consistently about the same time each night
• Having the bedroom environment “familiar” and consistent each night
• Avoiding caffeinated drinks

But did you know that if a child doesn’t get a good night’s sleep, it can affect the way his or her brain matures? One expert says that it can be hard on your child’s brain “wiring” and can make it hard for the back portion of the brain to function efficiently.

Not only that, just because you and your child both have a “late-nighter,” your child may not recover from it the same way you do. Both of you will need an extended time of “deep sleep,” but your child’s brain will process sleep deprivation differently than you will, especially during “sensitive” growth periods for the brain.

Since 1992, Dr. Robinson has worked in a variety counseling positions. She is also a popular author and speaker on topics ranging from childhood development and sexuality, teen issues, family dynamics including caring for elderly relatives, and church resources for families.

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