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Tuesday, January 22, 2008
The Children’s Sleeping Scale: What is Enough?

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By Heather Andrews

Do you often feel like your toddler fights their sleepiness each night and refuses to go to bed and your teenager sleeps all afternoon? Understanding your child’s sleep needs and establishing proper sleep habits at an early age is essential to their well being and development.

There is no set number of how many hours children should sleep. The differences can vary between children. While there are studies that suggest certain numbers for certain ages, those numbers are averages and not requirements.

Here is an idea of the sleep guidelines for children:

Sleepy Girl
  • Newborn babies can sleep up to about 4 hours before they are hungry and wake up. They will sleep a total of 16-20 hours throughout a 24 hour period.

  • Pre-schoolers typically sleep between 10 and 12 hours a night.

  • Elementary school aged children require about 10 hours of sleep at night.

  • Teenagers need 8 to 9.5 hours of sleep at night.

Lack of sleep can affect a child’s behavior. They can have periods of extreme hyper activity even when they are tired, so pay attention to other behaviors your child demonstrates that might indicate a lack of sleep. Children can become disagreeable or show other signs of sleep deprivation. Do not to bargain with a child who doesn’t want to go to bed or try to explain why it’s important for them to get sleep. Be firm that it is time for bed and don’t say any more.

Some preschool and kindergarten age children who get long and regular sleep at night, may not require a nap during the day. However, they do require rest time where they can lie down to rest and relax even if they don’t fall asleep. Keeping a consistent schedule of sleep and rest time is very important to developing good sleeping habits. Also, remember to keep the environment of a sleeping area the same. If your child uses a nap mat at school, consider using one at home for rest time during the weekends and school vacation days.

Help teach your children methods for falling asleep on their own. Provide comfort items like favorite stuffed toys, soothing music and well tucked in nap sheets. Make sure to give your kids at least two warnings before bed at set times such as 30 minutes and 10 minutes before bed time. Stick to a night time routine that is consistent each night. Once your child is in bed and ready to fall asleep, It is best to go into another room to let them fall asleep on their own. Avoid checking in too often as this may cause the child to fight sleep longer while waiting for your return.

If your child continues to have sleeping problems, you may want to look into other causes. If your child has noisy breathing at night, this could be an indicator of poor quality sleep. Other factors of your child’s health, diet or behavior may also be causing the sleep problems and you should consult your physician.

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