How much sleep do kids need?

funny face expression with open mouth of blonde caucasian three years old child, sleeping on king bed

Setting a Bedtime so Everyone gets Enough Sleep

Too often we underestimate the need for sleep, particularly in growing children. A friend once told me her secret to parenting was that she put all her kids to bed at 6 pm. At first, I thought she was joking. Then she started to describe how some nights the kids literally went straight from dinner to bed, only stopping to ask why the sun was still up. At first, she did it so she didn’t have cranky kids to deal with before work and school. She kept doing it because it gave her a much needed moment of sanity in the evening. For school-age children with homework and activities, it may seem like an impossible time crunch. The first step is knowing how much sleep your child needs.  

Are your kids getting enough sleep?

Some days it seems like our kids will never run out of energy, but that’s not the best way to figure out if one’s getting enough sleep. For optimum health, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine established this guide:

  • Infants from 4 to 12 months should get 12 to 16 hours of sleep, including naps
  • Children 1 to 2 years old should get 11 to 14 hours, including naps
  • Kids 3 to 5 should get 10 to 13 hours, including naps
  • Children 6 to 12-year-olds should sleep 9 to 12 hours a night
  • Teenagers should get from 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night

Could your kids use a new bedtime to help get those much-needed sleep hours in? Wilson Elementary School in Kenosha, Wisconsin created a handy chart to find the right bedtime based on age and wake-up time. Use the chart to find the bedtime for each of your kids and write it down so you can put it into practice. 

Make the bedtime known in advance. You don’t want your children to see their bedtime as a form of punishment. Sleep is not punishment, it’s a necessity for being healthy, just like taking a bath, brushing their teeth, drinking water, and eating vegetables. 

Benefits of getting enough sleep at any age:

  • Less stress, more room for joy.
  • Better focus at school and work.
  • Stronger immunity means fewer sick days.
  • Interacting with others in a more positive way. 
  • Better decision making. 

If you need to phase in other changes to their routine to make it work, lay out a plan for those changes. As co-parents agree to be consistent for everyone’s sake.