How Many Hours of Sleep do Kids Need and Why?

Just like adults, children need their zzzs, although how many hours of sleep kids need depends on their age. Multiple studies have shown that sleep is as vital as exercise and nutrition. Kids who get enough sleep have better memory, concentration, and behavior. They have more energy and do better at school. Getting the right amount of sleep also has a positive impact on mental and physical health and mood.

By Janine Clements, 21st Century Mama

I know if my tween or teen doesn’t get enough sleep, they get so cranky. If I let them have sleepovers, I spend the next day regretting it, as it can ruin their day (and ours). So how many hours of sleep do kids need?

This chart shows the National Sleep Foundation guidelines for how much sleep kids need by age.

 Age Range  
Recommended Hours of Sleep Kids Need  
Newborn0-3 months old14-17 hours
Infant4-11 months old12-15 hours
Toddler1-2 years old11-14 hours
Preschool3-5 years old10-13 hours
School-age6-13 years old9-11 hours
Teens14+8-10 hours

A study published by the Academic Pediatrics Association on the number of hours of sleep kids need concluded that if young children, including infants, don’t get enough sleep, it can impact their cognitive, physical, and emotional development when they are older. Lack of sleep can also potentially lead to long-term health problems including obesity, depression, and diabetes.

Sleep has a direct impact on the following:

  • Mood
  • Behavior
  • Concentration
  • Memory
  • Energy levels
  • Performance at school
  • Health
  • Immune system

Thanks to early school start times, staying up late, and the use of screens before bedtime, kids aren’t getting sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics published new research on how much sleep kids need, and it concludes only 48% of school-age children in the U.S. are getting their recommended hours of sleep during the week.

two children

Ways to Ensure Your Kids Get Their Sleep

How many hours of shuteye kids need can vary from child to child. It’s essential to encourage healthy sleep habits from the get-go. Here are some ways you can help make sure your kids enough sleep.

Physical Activity

Studies show kids sleep better when they exercise or run around in the fresh air. Get them outside as much as you can. They can play with friends, walk the dog, go for a bike ride, or even go for a run. All of this will help kids get the hours of sleep they need.

Steer Clear of Caffeine

If you have teens or tweens who love their lattes, it’s best to stick to decaf as caffeine can wreak havoc on your sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant, and according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, you should skip it at least six hours before bedtime. Examples of beverages containing caffeine include coffee, tea, energy drinks, and sodas such as Pepsi, Coke, and Mountain Dew.

Stick to a Schedule

When schools shut down due to the COVID pandemic earlier this year, my kids started staying up later and later because they didn’t have to get up so early. My teen still thinks 11 pm isn’t late! However, according to research, if children go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day, it will be easier for them to fall fast asleep.

Ditch Devices an Hour Before Bedtime

Nowadays, kids and teens are spending more and more time on screens thanks to television, smartphones, and gaming. With many kids remote learning due to the COVID pandemic they are on screens even more and this can affect how many hours of sleep they get.

Screens give off a blue light that can affect a child’s internal body clock, known as their circadian rhythm, and suppress melatonin production, which helps you sleep. Excessive screen use can lead to insomnia and even depression. A study published in Pediatrics stated that children sleep less if they have a device by their bed or television in their room.

According to experts, it takes an hour for the brain to wind down after being on a screen. Although I’m sure my teen would happily stay on her phone all night, her phone shuts off at 9 pm every evening (this is when Screen Time on my iPhone comes in very handy). My kids also leave any devices in the kitchen after a set time. This is a house rule, which keeps things simple and it helps them get the hours of sleep they need.

Establish a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

Kids of all ages will find it easier to drift off if they have a calm and relaxed bedtime routine. Here are some suggestions:

  • Start the bedtime routine earlier, so they are ready to fall asleep at the right time
  • Give them a warm bath with essential oils such as lavender or jasmine as this can help them relax
  • Make sure they are in bed 30 minutes before their lights go off, so they have time to wind down fully
  • Get them to read before bedtime instead of play on screens or watch television
  • Use a sleep or meditation app such as Moshi, Headspace for Kids, or Calm

Create a sleep-positive environment

  • Make sure the room is quiet
  • Adjust the room temperature so it’s cool
  • Dim the lights
  • Remove devices
  • Use a room diffuser with one or two drops of lavender or any other calming essential oil

If you’ve tried everything and you’re still concerned about how many hours of sleep your kids are getting, it’s worth seeing a doctor to prevent long-term problems.

Janine Clements

Janine Clements is a successful writer for publications such as Real Simple, Boston Globe, Fodor’s and more. She specializes in lifestyle and travel and is passionate about bringing brands to life through storytelling on her blog https://www.21stcenturymama.com/. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her shopping for cool new products or hanging out with her two gorgeous daughters, who like to keep her on her toes. You can find her on Twitter @BritMominNY and Instagram @21stcenturymama.

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