Knowing exactly how much sleep your child may need can be a tiresome task to wrap your brain around. Not to mention, the personal fatigue that can come from children who battle bedtime and strike naps like little warriors drawing their battle lines. So, just how much sleep does your child need?
The National Sleep Foundation states that newborns should sleep 12 to 18 hours out of every 24, with a gradual reduction to 12 to 14 hours for toddlers ages 1 to 3; 11 to 13 hours for preschoolers 3 to 5; and 10 to 11 hours for schoolchildren ages 5 to 10.
Some experts believe that children not meeting these suggested sleep requirements may suffer negative side effects. Maritday Rodriguez, Certified Doula and Board Certified Holistic Coach who works in establishing sleep routines, warns that short sleep duration is linked with factors such as an increase in body mass index – a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation, an increased risk of diabetes and heart problems, an increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse, and the potential for a decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information.
While parents may believe their children are getting enough adequate rest, they may be surprised, explains certified baby and child sleep consultant, Joleen Dilk Salyn. Salyn explains, "Often parents believe that their child is getting enough sleep but once we look at the child's behavior, especially around the late afternoon/ early evening, there are tell-tale signs such as becoming hyper or very silly, tantrums, melt downs, defiance, etc., that show us that in reality, their child is over-tired. Children don't respond to being tired in the same manner as an adult does. We become fatigued and sluggish, whereas a child will go into overdrive and seem to have unlimited energy. To many parents, this is understandably confusing."
To help ensure your child has the best sleep possible, experts recommend that you and your family follow these sleep tips:
- Establish consistent sleep and wake schedules, even on weekends
- Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as a hot bath or soothing music and begin this routine an hour or more before bedtime (read 6 Ways to Unwind with your Kids)
- Create a restful environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool
- Provide comfortable bedding
- Use their bedroom for sleep (keep "sleep stealers" out of the bedroom – TV, tablet, computer or phone in bed)
- Have them finish eating at least 2-3 hours before they go to sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Don't provide caffeine or sugar close to bedtime