“I don’t wanna go to bed yet!” Your child protests while clicking on the next YouTube video. You glare silently at the newest rendition of Baby Shark (when are you ever going to hear the last of that song?), painfully aware that the next morning will be another uphill struggle of getting your child out of bed and ready for school.

You’re frustrated but also worried. Is your child getting enough sleep? How much sleep does your child need to be at their best?

If your child has difficulty waking up on most mornings (and does so grumpily), this could be a sign that they are not getting sufficient rest for their age.

Another surprising sign that your child is lacking sleep? Hyperactivity. Tired children often wind up, displaying behaviours that may resemble symptoms of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and becoming more hyperactive later into the night. Parents may, therefore, have a harder time trying to get their restless (pun unintended) child to bed.

Ensuring that your child is well-rested has benefits that go beyond a great mood the next day. Children who have enough sleep each night have been found to have better memory, attention spans, mental and physical health, and quality of life. They also learn better and have healthier weights.

This means that if your child has insufficient sleep, there is much at stake too!

To help us get a sense of how much sleep your child may require to achieve these benefits, the National Sleep Foundation has proposed the following guidelines according to their two-year research study. These guidelines indicate a range of hours which your child will likely need to function their best during the day.

Age Grou Number of Hours
New Born (0 – 3 months) 14 – 17
Infant (4 – 11 months) 12 – 15
Toddler (1 – 2 years) 11 – 14
Pre-schooler (3 – 5 years) 10 – 13
School Aged (6 – 13 years) 9 – 11
Teen (14 – 17 years) 8 – 10

However, every child has varying needs and it may therefore be helpful to monitor your child’s sleep by keeping a sleep diary. Take note of your child’s bedtime, how long it takes for them to fall asleep, and the time at which they awake. You may include notes on their sleep quality and whether they have difficulty getting out of bed each morning.

Once you’ve done so consistently, it’s time to be Sherlock Holmes (or, search for Blue’s Clues)! Look out for patterns and use the information as a guide to determine if your child is getting enough sleep and how you can help them sleep better.

Poor sleep quality or frequent awakening during the night could indicate the possibility of conditions such as sleep apnea. Individuals with sleep apnea wake up multiple times a night as they have breathing difficulties, but they may not know about these nightly incidents. You should consult your paediatrician if you suspect that there may be an underlying condition that is affecting your child’s sleep.

If your child is of school-going age, make comparisons between the weekdays and the weekends. Should your child need to sleep in on weekends, it could be a sign that they are compensating for a sleep debt that they had accumulated through the week.

You may also notice differences in sleep patterns during the school term and during the summer vacations. For example, your child’s natural waking times during the break could differ from the timings at which they are required to awake during the term. This could mean that there is a mismatch between your child’s internal body clock and the sleeping schedule that is expected of them. You could help your child adjust this body clock over the summer break by first matching their timings, before introducing changes in small increments. Doing so will allow your child to get the right amount of quality sleep once the term comes around.

Improvements to your child’s sleep quality can also be brought about by simple changes such as incorporating a bedtime routine, keeping your child sufficiently active during the day, and ensuring that their sleeping environment is quiet and dark, with no distractions. It is advisable to find methods that work for both you and your child and to tailor these adjustments according to their needs. In no time, you’ll find your little one getting the recommended amount of sleep each night, waking up refreshed, and ready to take on a brand new day (hooray!). And of course, no more never-ending, late-night Baby Sharks on YouTube (double hooray!).

References

Brody, Jane E. Zombie Prevention: Your Child’s Sleep. 23 May 2011. Electronic. 12 December 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/24/health/24brody.html

Krans, Brian. New Guidelines Show How Many Hours of Sleep a Child Needs. 13 June 2016. Electronic. 12 December 2018. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/new-guidelines-for-hours-of-sleep-child-needs#1

Ministry of Health – Manatū Hauora. Helping young children sleep better. 2018. Electronic. 12 December 2018. https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/healthy-living/food-activity-and-sleep/sleeping/helping-young-children-sleep-better

National Sleep Foundation. How much sleep do babies and kids really need? 2018. Electronic. 12 December 2018. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/excessivesleepiness/content/how-much-sleep-do-babies-and-kids-need

National Sleep Foundation. How much sleep do we really need? 2018. Electronic. 12 December 2018. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need