Sleep isn’t just a luxury of life – it’s a health requirement for adults and kids alike. When people don’t get enough sleep, it really shows. Lack of sleep has been linked to depression, lost productivity and even obesity. As a partner of the Together Counts program for healthy, active living, we understand how essential sleep is to give you energy for the things you enjoy doing every day.
So how much sleep do kids really need? It all depends on their age. The National Sleep Foundation recommends:
- 14 to 17 hours of sleep per day for newborns, up to 3 months of age
- 12 to 15 hours of sleep per day for infants, age 4 to 11 months of age
- 11 to 14 hours of sleep per day for toddlers, age 1 to 2 years old
- 10 to 13 hours of sleep per day for preschoolers, age 3 to 5 years old
- 9 to 11 hours of sleep per day for school age kids, age 6 to 13 years old
- 8 to 10 hours of sleep per day for teens, age 14 to 17 years old
- 7 to 9 hours of sleep per day for adults, age 18 and up
So what can parents do to keep their kids in line with the recommendations – particularly if bedtime is usually met with difficulty? Here are a few ways families can make sleep a household priority, with less fuss and fighting.
Stick With Routine
Our bodies respond best to repeated patterns that don’t deviate much from one day to the next. From the time your child gets home from school or child care, have a general schedule for everything from dinner to homework to bath/shower to bedtime. It can be easy to let this routine go over vacations or on the weekends, but you should really try to stick with it. Sleep is just as important on non-school days and if children get too run-down on their days off, it will manifest in lethargy, disinterest and even bad behavior. Set and keep a bedtime – and have the actions that set it up for success.
Work Up to Bedtime
This references the first point, but is a little more specific. As an adult, would you expect to go to a high-energy workout class and then fall asleep five minutes later? The same is true for kids. If they are busy running around up until the clock strikes bedtime, it will take longer for them to fall asleep. Experts now advise parents to shut off all electronics, including TVs, an hour before bedtime. Have your kids play quietly with their non-electronic toys, or read them a book, in those 60 minutes leading up to lights out. Consider the time immediately before bedtime a “warm up” for the success of the rest of the night.
All parents say they want their kids to sleep well but do their actions add up to that end? It’s important to not overschedule your kids, particularly if those activities stretch into the evening hours. It’s also important to say “no” to events that will cut into the evening routine and to leave events early if there will be a conflict. It’s okay to make rare exceptions but as a whole, keep bedtime and the evening routine a priority on your family calendar.
Monitor Food/Drinks in the Evening
As a general rule of thumb, don’t allow your kids treat foods after dinner. Make sure your kids, including your teens, know the food and drink rules in the evening and set a good example by following them yourself.
Good sleeping habits take some time to cultivate and there is no quick fix for parents or kids. Establishing consistency and routine – and then making sleep a family priority – will go a long way to better rest in your household, and all of the health benefits that accompany it.
SPARK is a research-based organization that provides award-winning, evidence-based programs for Physical Education (K-12), After School, Early Childhood, and Coordinated School Health and is a member of the Together Counts Program™. Since 1989, SPARK has provided curriculum, training, and consultation to over 100,000 teachers and youth leaders worldwide. Visit www.sparkpe.org to download sample lesson plans, find grant opportunities, and register for free educational webinars and monthly eNewsletters.
For more ideas to incorporate into your healthy, active lifestyle, take a look at these other articles from Together Counts!