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How Much Sleep is Needed at Each Stage of Life

Posted 10/24/2016 by UHBlog

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How Much Sleep is Needed at Each Stage of Life

No matter what stage of life your child is in, one factor holds true: Getting enough sleep is important for their health. If they aren't getting enough sleep or sleeping well, the mental and physical impacts can be severe.

“A good night’s sleep helps you be your best,” says pediatric sleep specialist Carol Rosen, MD. “It’s important for learning, mood, focus and growing.”

Being well-rested leads to better memory and behavior in children. Along with improving learning, it’s important for your child’s growth and physical well-being, too, Dr. Rosen says.

For optimal health, make sure your child is getting the following hours of sleep depending on their age:

  • 4-12 months*: 12 to 16 hours
  • 1-2 years*: 11 to 14 hours
  • 3-5 years*: 10 to 13 hours
  • 6-12 years: 9 to 12 hours
  • 13-18 years: 8 to 10 hours
  • 18+ years: 7+ hours

*Suggested sleep duration includes time spent napping.

Anyone who has ever spent time with a grouchy kid knows that not getting enough sleep impacts theirs – and your – quality of life. If you need help gauging whether your kiddos are sleeping enough, here are four signs they aren't well-rested:

  1. Trouble waking up. According to Dr. Rosen, waking up spontaneously is a good sign that your child is getting enough sleep.
    “Kids shouldn’t need someone to wake them up,” she says. “After sleep, they should get up feeling refreshed, repaired and ready to go.”
  2. Daytime sleeping. If your school-aged child or teen is napping, that's a clue that they aren’t sleeping enough at night time or have developed a sleep problem.
    “Regular naps after age 5 to 6 years or falling asleep in the classroom point to lack of or fragmented sleep,” Dr. Rosen says.
  3. Changes in grades and behavior. Yawning and looking tired are obvious signs of not getting enough sleep, but Dr. Rosen warns of subtle indicators as well.
    “The consequences of not getting enough sleep may look like worsening grades or poor focus in school,” she says. “Additionally, your child may be more impulsive or easily frustrated.”
    Poor sleep can also contribute to depression and is associated with an increased risk of self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
  4. Decline in physical health. Dr. Rosen says a kid with low energy may become a “couch potato.” A tired child is also more likely to fall or get into an accident.
    “When your sleep is broken up and poor, that can impact blood pressure and controlling glucose,” says Dr. Rosen. “Kids that aren’t getting enough sleep are at increased risk for obesity and diabetes.”

Being intentional about setting a bedtime routine and environment for your child can help make sure your child gets their recommended number of hours each night.

“You want a cool, dark and comfy environment,” she says. “One of the most important things is keeping a regular schedule for falling asleep and waking up, trying not to vary from that schedule more than one or two hours on the weekend.”

In addition to keeping a regular schedule, Dr. Rosen recommends having a short bedtime routine to relax before bed. Additionally, avoid giving your kids caffeinated drinks and limit their exposure to bright light, like computer screens, before bed.

“Make sleep a priority in your household,” she says. “Parents should be a good role model.”

Carol Rosen, MD is a pediatric sleep specialist and Medical Director, Pediatric Sleep Center at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. You can request an appointment with Dr. Rosen or any other doctor online.

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