How Long Should Children Sleep Every Day?

August 12th, 2016

You may have heard that children need more sleep than adults — after all, they’re still growing. For children, getting enough sleep is critical for brain development and academic success. But how much sleep do they really need? And more importantly, do the hours that they sleep matter?

It appears that the hours that you and your children sleep do matter after all. Dr. Matt Walker, head of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at the University of California, explained in the July 2016 Time article that deep, restorative non-REM sleep and REM sleep happen at certain times of the night, which means that if you go to sleep late, you may miss the restorative sleep cycle, which can leave you feeling tired and foggy the following day.

The Time article also highlights that your age contributes to when you feel tired and need to go to sleep. In fact, experts suggested in the article that small children will likely be tired early in the evening, while college-aged adults may not feel the need to sleep until midnight or later. Once you become an adult, your best bedtime will trend earlier as you age. It’s clear that no matter whether you are an adult or a child, you need to be sleeping during the night in order to be your best self the next day.

As an adult, you typically know whether or not you prefer to stay up late or get up early— so you are able to take this into account when you choose your bedtime. You also have probably figured out approximately how much sleep you need to function properly without adverse effects. But infants and children aren’t mature or old enough to distinguish this for themselves, and they need our guidance.

CNN recently reported that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has for the first time ever released an official consensus stating exactly how much sleep growing children need. According to their guidelines, which account for how much a child should sleep in a 24-hour period, , including naps: infants (four to 12 months of age) should sleep 12-16 hours; toddlers (ages one and two) should sleep 11-14 hours; children between the ages of three and five should sleep 10-13 hours. Additionally, children between the ages of six and 12 years should sleep 9-12 hours, and teenagers (13-18 years) should sleep8-10 hours on a regular basis.

The official recommendation is the culmination of a 10-month project conducted by a Pediatric Consensus Panel, which includes 13 of the nation’s foremost sleep experts. The recommendation is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Sleep Research Society, and the American Association of Sleep Technologists. The consensus statement was published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Children who sleep more or less than the recommended amounts are subject to increased risk for a number of adverse overall health and behavioral effects. Experts from the panel suggest that concerned parents of children who are not sleeping the recommended amount, whether that amount is more or less than the recommendations, should consult a pediatrician.

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