By the time most children start elementary school, parents have established a set bedtime and a bedtime routine. However, that does not mean that all children are getting the quality sleep they should.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, children ages 5-10 should get 10-11 hours of sleep per night, although newer research from Stanford University suggests that nine and ten-year-olds only need eight to nine hours. However, as kids turn into teenagers, their sleep needs actually increase. Most teenagers need 8 ½ – 9 ½ hours of sleep, so your older teen may actually sleep longer than your pre-teen.
The other interesting thing about teenagers is that their circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock) changes so that they don’t get sleepy until later in the day, often at 11 o’clock or later. This means that they actually should be sleeping longer in the morning to get that required nine hours of sleep!
What happens when they don’t get enough sleep?
Sleep deprivation is related to all kinds of problems, including difficulty with concentration and memory (which will affect learning and grades), depressed mood or irritability, weight gain and even increased risk of sports injuries and car accidents. One study showed that kids who slept at least eight hours reduced their risk for a sports injury by 68 percent! And driving when sleep-deprived causes similar delayed reaction times to driving drunk.
What can you do to help your child get quality sleep?
Getting enough sleep isn’t enough. If your child is sleeping 8-10 hours (depending on their age) but is still tired, perhaps they aren’t getting restful sleep. Here are some tips for better sleep:
- Keep the bedroom dark, cool and quiet.
- No electronic devices in the bedroom. This means no TVs or cell phones! Invest in a $10 alarm clock instead of letting them use their phone.
- Have a set bedtime routine. Some people like to journal as part of this routine. It is a good way to clear your mind and relax.
- Have consistent bedtimes and wake times.
- Decrease caffeine intake, especially later in the afternoon and evening.
- Do not let them watch TV or play video games an hour prior to bed. One study showed that kids who watched more TV prior to bed took longer to fall asleep.
- Take a warm bath or shower prior to bed.
If you notice your child is snoring loudly (you can hear them with the door shut), has pauses in their breathing or gasps for air, or is very restless and never seems well-rested, then you should have him or her see a doctor to see if there is an underlying problem.