Children are sleep deprived just as adults are – 27% of children get less sleep than they need each school night. How much sleep does a child need? Preschoolers (ages 3 to 5) need about 11 to 12 hours, children aged 6 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours, and high school students need 9 to 9.5 hours.
If a child doesn’t get enough sleep they can have mood and behavior problems. For example, they may be irritable, overly emotional, have difficulty cooperating or controlling impulses. Teens especially will take more risks when they are sleep deprived.
School performance is also impaired by sleep deprivation. It becomes more difficult to pay attention, creativity declines, and memory is impaired. Certainly not what we want for our children in school!
Tips to help your children get the sleep they need:
If you suspect your children are not getting the sleep they need to feel good and do well in school there are steps you can take today to improve their sleep.
First, set a consistent wake up time for your child. The time you wake up is the most important for setting your body clock. Next, get them to bed 15 minutes earlier every couple days, until they awaken refreshed on their own. When a preschool or grade school child is getting enough sleep they will be able to awake on their own (this may not be true of teens, more on teen sleep another time).
“Screen time” in front of a computer or television can interfere with easily falling asleep both because of the bright light and because it is mentally stimulating. So establish a bedtime routine that does not involved the TV or computer.
Caffeine stays active in the body for 6 to 8 hours. Ensure your child is not having any caffeine after noon to help sleep well at night.