By Lisa Pecos
Chances are that you’ve long been told that you should be aiming for 8 hours of sleep every night, but does that go for your children too? And if you struggle to get in a full 8 hours on most nights, is it realistic to expect that your child or teen can? Experts report that more than one third of the American population doesn’t get enough sleep and this includes children and teens.
The Effects of Not Getting Enough Sleep
There is no question that the amount of sleep we get directly impacts our health and wellbeing and this goes for children too. Inadequate sleep in children has been shown to result in:
- Impaired ability to focus and pay attention
- Irritability and frustration
- Difficulty controlling emotions and impulses
Children and teens that don’t get sufficient sleep also have a much higher risk of:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
Teens in particular are also at risk of having suicidal thoughts, attempting suicide, and engaging self-harming.
How Much Sleep Your Child or Teen Needs
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has just released recommendations on the amount of sleep children and teens need in order to avoid health risks. The recommendations are based on a 10-month study of 864 scientific articles on the link between sleep and children’s health. They recommend the following amount of sleep per 24 hours:
- Infants 4 to 12 months: 12 to 16 hours of sleep, including naps
- Ages 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours, including naps
- Ages 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours, including naps
- Ages 6 to 12 years: nine to 12 hours
- Ages 13 to 18 years: eight to 10 hours
The American Academy of Pediatrics and other health authorities endorse the recommendations.
How to Help Your Kids Get Better Sleep
Ensuring that your child gets enough sleep isn’t always easy, especially as they get older, but there are things that you can do to help them. For younger children, a bedtime story, a lullaby, or other bedtime ritual can be soothing and help them to relax and settle in for a night of sleep. Keeping a consistent bedtime each night is also important to help them develop a better sleep routine.
For children and teens that are beyond the lullaby and bedtime story stage, regular exercise and avoiding stimulants before bed can help. Banning electronic devices and phones in the bedroom is important. And children and teens of all ages will benefit from sleeping in a room that is cool, dark, and quiet.