How much sleep does your child need?
Every child is different so sleep needs will vary from child to child. Recommended sleep times also change as we get older. The Canadian Pediatric Society1and the National Institutes of Health2 offer the following recommendations:
- School-aged children (5-10yrs): at least 10 hours
- Adolescents (11-17yrs): 9-10 hours
Several research studies suggest the majority of children and adolescents are not getting enough sleep. Both children and adolescents experience competing demands for time including school, social activities, and extra-curricular activities making it difficult to develop healthy sleep habits.
Why is sleep so important?
Sleep is critical to how we think, feel, and behave.3 School performance, emotional health, and behaviour are associated with healthy sleeping patterns.3,4,5 Children and adolescents who do not get the required amount of sleep do not do as well at school and demonstrate more internalizing (behaviours where negative emotions or feelings are directed inwards, including social withdrawal, depression, anxiety, and sense of worthlessness) and externalizing behaviours (behaviours where negative emotions or feelings are displayed outwards and are more disruptive including breaking rules, destroying things, and being argumentative).4,5
Establishing a Healthy Sleep Routine for your Child or Adolescent1,2
- Establish a routine, go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends
- Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, pop, chocolate) 4-6 hours before bed
- Expose yourself to bright lights in the morning – sunlight helps the biological clock to reset itself each day
- Make sure your bedroom is favorable for sleep – your bedroom should be dark, quiet, comfortable and not too warm or too cold
- Make sure your mattress and pillow are comfortable
- Outdoor activities during the day are recommended while avoiding any strenuous activity at least one hour before bed
- Stress has a huge impact on sleep so it is important to take time to relax before bed such as taking a bath, listening to music, and reading
- Avoid going to bed feeling hungry or too full. Avoid eating a heavy meal right before bed. If you are hungry, have a light, healthy snack
- Make your bedroom for sleeping only – keep cell phones, computers, televisions and video games, or any electronic ‘gadgets’ out of your bedroom
- Avoid staying up late to study, the best preparation for a test or exam is a good night sleep
- Get up and leave your bedroom if you have not gone to sleep within 30 minutes. Do something relaxing such as reading, taking a bath, or listening to music. Avoid screens.
- For older adolescents: avoid drinking alcohol in the evening – it prevents your brain from getting into deep sleep and avoid smoking cigarettes in the evening – it is a stimulant just like caffeine!
1The Canadian Pediatric Society. (2014). Teens and sleep: Why you need it and how to get enough. Retrieved from http://www.caringforkids.cps/ca
2National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. (2012). How much sleep is enough? Retrieved from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/howmuch.html
3Gruber, R. (2013). Making room for sleep: The relevance of sleep to Pyschology and the rationale for development of preventative sleep education programs for children and adolescents in the community. Canadian Psychology, 54(1), 62-71.
4Astill, R.G., Van der Heijden, K.B., Van IJzendoorn, M.H. & Van Someren, E.J.W. (2012). Sleep, cognition, and behavioural problems in school-aged children: A century of research meta-analyzed. Psychological Bulletin, 138(6), 1109-1138.
5Gregory, A.M. & Sadeh, A. (2012). Sleep, emotional and behavioural difficulties in children and adolescents. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 16, 129-136.