How much sleep does your child really need?


This post is part of a series that focuses on children's and women's health, as part of a sponsored partnership with Aurora Health Care. It's the constant conversation in my house.

My husband and I often wonder if we are putting our kids to bed too early or too late. Their lives are busy and active, so I always worry: Are they getting enough rest?

This is especially important as back-to-school time rounds the corner.

Aurora pediatrician Dr. Diane Gerlach says that adequate sleep is as important as food and drink for a child's health.

Sleep supports healthy physical, emotional and mental development. It helps children maintain a healthy weight. It promotes natural immunities so that kids get sick less often. And it recharges the brain so that kids can be more attentive.

When kids don't get enough sleep they can get sick more easily, and are even more prone to depression and behavior problems. (I'm sure we've all experienced a temper tantrum or two that was simply due to a lack of sleep.)

Kids who lack sleep are also more impulsive and irritable, and can experience memory and concentration problems. (Okay, sounds like me.)

So, how much sleep is enough?

Dr. Gerlach suggests following these general guidelines:

3 – 6 year olds should be getting 10 - 12 hrs a day (this includes a nap for younger kids).

7 – 12 year olds should be getting 10 - 11 hrs each night.

12 – 18 year olds should be getting 8 - 9 hrs each night.

We have experimented a little bit with bedtimes in our home, but have mostly settled on 7:00-ish for our one-year-old, 7:30-ish for our three-year-old, and 8:00-ish for our six-year old. They each wake up about 12 hours later. (Probably not a plan for my six-year-old when school starts!)

Helpful hints for bedtime

To make sure your kids are getting enough shuteye, consider incorporating some of these doctor-approved suggestions:

-Whatever your routine in the morning and at night, keep it consistent

-Keep a consistent bedtime and wakeup time

-Minimize screen time, especially scary shows

-Minimize caffeine and high sugar foods at night

-Put away electronic devices before bed, which can decrease natural melatonin which helps you sleep

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It's always interesting to read these articles and compare the suggestions to your own daily life.

The truth is that, in our home, we offer the kids a small sugary treat after dinner, and a short amount of screen time before bed. While it seems moderate to me, it also goes against these guidelines. Perhaps with some modifications, my kids would wind down and go to sleep more easily.

When do your kids go to bed? How much sleep do they get? Comment below!


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