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Kids Need Sleep to Thrive: Are Our Children Sleep-Deprived?

An individual who has been awake for 17 hours is equivalent to that

exhibited by one who has a blood alcohol concentration of


a tired girl lying on her arms

As adults, it's not uncommon for us to forget the importance of sleep, but are we giving proper thought to the negative consequences sleep deprivation has on children?

Sleep research indicates that sufficient sleep does so much more than just giving children the energy to play or study. In fact, it has been proven to be associated with a myriad of superior cognitive functions, one of these being the consolidation of memory which allows them to remember what has been learned which is absolutely critical for successful academic performance.

Beyond the effects it has on retention though, sufficient sleep, especially during a child's developmental stage of life, is deemed essential for normal brain development and also plays a vital role in the promotion of healthy psychosocial development.

On the flip side, continual sleep disruption and/or sleep deprivation in children gives rise to poor grades, cognitive impairment, and anxiety.

Depression, irritability, thoughts of self-harm, and even suicide attempts have been reported in teenagers who don't get the recommended amount of shut eye.

Studies initially proposed that unfavourable behaviour in children adversely affects sleep, however, it is now accepted that this association is vice-versa and that sleep disturbances listed as a symptom of mental health disorders should be reconsidered to suggest that many of these mental health disorders can be directly related to sleep deprivation.

Sleep is a crucial aspect of a child's development and overall well-being. As parents, we must prioritize ensuring that our children get the right amount of quality sleep. However, understanding the ideal amount of sleep for children by age can be a challenge. In this article, we will explore the importance of quality sleep for children, discuss sleep guidelines for different age groups, address common sleep issues, provide tips for establishing healthy sleep habits, and highlight the impact of inadequate sleep on children's health and development.

Importance of Quality Sleep for Children

Quality sleep is essential for children as it plays a vital role in their growth, cognitive development, behaviour, and overall physical health. When children consistently get enough sleep, it helps support their immune system, reduces the risk of obesity, improves concentration and academic performance, enhances memory consolidation, boosts creativity, and promotes emotional well-being. On the other hand, inadequate sleep can lead to a range of negative consequences, such as irritability, difficulty focusing, weakened immune system, increased risk of accidents, and even mental health issues. Therefore, understanding and meeting the sleep needs of children is crucial for their optimal development.

Understanding Needs by Age

Needs vary depending on a child's age, and it is important to be aware of these variations to ensure that they are getting the right amount of sleep. Let's delve into the recommended guidelines for different age groups.

Guidelines for Infants (0-12 months)

During the first year of life, infants require a substantial amount of sleep for their rapid growth and development.

Newborns typically sleep for around 14 to 17 hours a day, with sleep being divided into short periods throughout the day and night. As they grow, their sleep patterns become more consolidated, and by 6 months, they may sleep for around 14 hours, with more extended nighttime sleep and a few naps during the day. By the time they reach 12 months, most infants will sleep for about 12 to 16 hours a day, including naps.

Establishing a consistent bedtime routine, creating a sleep-friendly environment, and responding to their cues for sleep are key factors in promoting healthy sleep habits for infants.

Guidelines for Toddlers (1-3 years)

Toddlers require slightly less sleep than infants but still need an adequate amount to support their growth and development. On average, toddlers sleep for about 11 to 14 hours per day. This includes nighttime sleep and a daytime nap. By the age of 2, most toddlers will transition to a single nap that lasts 1 to 3 hours. It is important to establish a consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine for toddlers to help them relax and prepare for sleep.

Guidelines for Preschoolers (3-5 years)

Preschoolers typically need around 10 to 13 hours of sleep per day. Most children in this age group no longer require daytime naps, but some may still benefit from a short nap to prevent overtiredness. Consistency in sleep schedule and routine remains important during this stage to promote healthy sleep patterns.

Guidelines for School-Age Children (6-12 years)

As children enter the school-age phase, their sleep needs continue to decrease slightly. They generally require about 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night. It is important to establish a consistent sleep schedule, ensuring that they have enough time for sleep while considering their school and extracurricular activities. Bedtime routines should also be maintained to help them wind down before sleep.

chart recommending amount of sleep by age

Common Sleep Issues in Children

While most children will follow the recommended sleep guidelines, it is not uncommon for sleep issues to arise. Some common sleep issues in children include difficulty falling asleep, frequent night awakenings, nightmares, night terrors, and sleepwalking. It is important for parents to address these issues promptly to ensure their child's sleep quality and overall well-being.

Tips for Establishing Healthy Sleep Habits

Establishing healthy sleep habits is crucial for children to develop good sleep hygiene. Here are some tips to help you establish and maintain healthy sleep habits:

1. Consistent Schedule:

Establish a consistent sleep schedule, ensuring that your child goes to bed and wakes

up at the same time every day, even on weekends.

2. Bedtime Routine:

Create a relaxing bedtime routine that includes activities such as reading, taking a warm bath, or practicing deep breathing exercises.

3. Sleep-Friendly Environment:

Create a comfortable sleep environment by ensuring the room is cool, dark, and quiet. Consider using white noise machines or blackout curtains if needed.

4. Limit Technology Use: Avoid electronic devices, such as smartphones and tablets, for at least an hour before bedtime, as the blue light emitted by these devices can interfere with sleep.

5. Encourage Physical Activity: Promote regular physical activity during the day, as it can help children feel tired and ready for sleep at night.

6. Healthy Diet:

Ensure your child has a balanced diet that includes nutritious foods, as a healthy diet can positively impact sleep quality.

The Role of Technology in Children's Sleep

In today's digital age, technology has become an integral part of our lives, including our children's lives. However, excessive use of technology, especially before bedtime, can have a detrimental effect on sleep. The blue light emitted by electronic devices suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. It is important to set boundaries and establish technology-free zones, especially in the bedroom, to promote healthy sleep habits.

The Impact of Inadequate Sleep on Children's Health and Development

Inadequate sleep can have a significant impact on children's health and development. Sleep deprivation can lead to irritability, difficulty concentrating, impaired memory, decreased immune function, increased risk of obesity, and even mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. It is crucial to prioritize sleep and ensure that children are getting the recommended amount of sleep for their age to support their overall health and well-being.

Seeking Professional Help for Sleep Difficulties

If your child is experiencing persistent sleep difficulties or if you have concerns about their sleep patterns, it is advisable to seek professional help. A paediatrician or a sleep specialist can provide guidance, evaluate your child's sleep habits, and recommend appropriate interventions if necessary. Remember, addressing sleep issues early can prevent long-term consequences and promote healthy sleep habits.

Quality sleep is a fundamental pillar of a child's health and development. By understanding the ideal amount of sleep for children by age and implementing healthy sleep habits, we can unlock the secrets of quality sleep for our little ones.

Remember to prioritize consistent sleep schedules, establish bedtime routines, create sleep-friendly environments, limit technology use, and seek professional help when needed.

Let's ensure that our children get the sleep they need for a bright and healthy future.

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