Further Reading

With the start of the school year, what time should I be putting my child to bed at night?

by Amy R. Beach, FNP

This actually varies for different age groups. For ages 3 – 6 years, they need 10 – 12 hours a night.  These children usually are taking a daily nap at age 3, which shortens and gradually stops by age 5. For ages 7 – 12, 10 – 11 hours per night is recommended. Teens should have 8 – 9 1/2 hours.

How do I know if my child is getting enough sleep?

Is your child having difficulty waking up? Are they having trouble concentrating at school? Are they falling asleep during class? Are they more emotional or moody? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then it is a possibility they are sleep deprived.  

What can I do to promote sleep?

Establish a bedtime routine with a period of winding down at least 1/2 hour before bedtime.  This could include reading a bedtime story or taking a warm bath or shower.  Try and keep the same bedtime every night without varying too much on the weekends. Let your child know when the time is approaching, so they can finish what they are doing.  Do not eat or have anything with caffeine 2 – 3 hours prior to sleeping.  Stay active during the daytime.  For tweens and teens, there should be no electronics or TV in the bedroom.  

If your child has trouble getting to sleep, make sure you are encouraging these habits.  However, if they still are awake after 1/2 hour, have them get up and do a relaxing activity like reading a book that is not intense.  Then go back to bed and try again.  Lying in bed and staring at the clock can create anxiety about sleep and make falling asleep more difficult.

If they are sleep deprived, can they catch up on the weekends?

A lack of sleep actually creates a sleep debt.  While sleeping more on the weekends can help, you cannot store up sleep for the week ahead.  So if late night hours start again on Monday, you may see sleep problems start again.  Also varying bedtimes and wake times significantly on the weekends can work against a sleep routine.

If sleep problems persist, see your pediatrician.  They can be very helpful in diagnosing and treating sleep issues.