Big Kids and Sleep

Sleep (or lack thereof) is one of the biggest frustrations we deal with as parents. Here are Dr. Jessica Long’s tips on how many hours of sleep children need at each age and how to create a nighttime routine to achieve these sleep goals.

September is always a busy month in our household. School, homework, extracurriculars – there’s a lot to incorporate back into the daily routine, which is fun but also exhausting. By the end of the day our whole family is spent and everyone is exhausted. I know more sleep is the answer, but how exactly do we successfully get our children to sleep earlier, sounder and longer?

How much sleep your child needs depends a lot on her age. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends that preschoolers (3-5 years) get 10-13 hours of sleep, grade-schoolers (6-12 years) get 9-12 hours and teens (13-18 years) get 8-10 hours. Parents, as we know, routinely survive on 5 hours without problems (just kidding!).

So how do we meet these lofty sleep goals? Bedtime rituals are incredibly helpful in getting your child’s mind and body ready for sleep. A bath, brushing teeth, and a book may be the perfect routine for your 5 year old. Your middle-schooler might find it helpful to journal a bit before lights out. Whatever works for your family, make sure you plan for a sufficient amount of time to complete the bedtime ritual. Start the process 30-60 minutes prior to bedtime so that your child is sound asleep at an appropriate time.

Prepare your child’s room for sleep success as well. Keeping the temperature cool, the windows dark, and the bed free of too many toys/books/stuffed animals helps to set the scene for a good night’s sleep. My eldest daughter hoards dozens of books in her top bunk. We routinely have to declutter her bed to encourage her to close her books at an appropriate time to maximize her rest.

Probably the least popular advice I give to patients and their parents about improving sleep hygiene involves screen time. There is no wrath like a teenager who has been told she can’t charge her phone in her room overnight. Ideally, all screens should be turned off at least one hour prior to bedtime and all electronics should be charged outside of the bedroom. We are all guilty of checking our phones right before bedtime so make this a family goal to help improve everyone’s rest.

Sleep is a very important aspect of your child’s overall health. Poor sleep can affect mood, concentration and grades at school, behavior and more. If you are worried about your child’s sleep, discuss it with her pediatrician.

Happy zzzzz’s!