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Why Kids Need Sleep

By Mara R. Paradis, M.D.

Why Kids Need Sleep image

Sleep is as necessary to your child’s overall health as is proper nutrition and plenty of exercise. Sleep gives the body a chance to rest. It is a time in which the events we experience during waking hours are integrated into our memories as well as a time for our bodies to make repairs from daily wear and tear.

Children who do not sleep well do not learn as well and have a higher rate of behavior problems. Additionally, they may experience more illness as their immune system is not as effective.

How Much Sleep is Enough?

So, how much sleep is enough for your child? Well, it depends on your child. Some kids need more sleep than others. Boys Town Pediatrics recommends that:

  • Kids 5-12 years of age get between 10 and 11 hours of sleep each night.
  • Teens 13-14 years of age get between 8 and 9 hours of sleep each night.
  • Teens 15 and older get around 8 hours of sleep each night.

You will know when your child is not getting enough sleep if he or she is tired or cranky, has difficulty following directions, is unable to concentrate on school work, or is abnormally clumsy when participating in activities in which he or she normally excels.

Tips for Helping Your Child Sleep

The best way to help your child get enough sleep is to develop a regular sleep routine and a consistent schedule for bedtime and waking. Stick to this schedule during the week and on weekends.

Other ways to make sure your child gets the amount of sleep appropriate for his or her age include:

  • Spending 20-30 minutes before bedtime relaxing. Have your child take a warm bath or read during this time.
  • Not keeping a television in your child’s bedroom. Watching television before going to bed can make it harder to fall asleep.
  • Keeping caffeine to a minimum (i.e., soda, chocolate, coffee).
  • Monitoring your child’s television viewing. Scary or disturbing programs can interfere with his or her ability to fall asleep.
  • Not exercising before bedtime.
  • Designating your child’s bed a “sleep only” area. Reading, doing homework, playing games and talking on the phone should be done in a separate location.

When to Call a Doctor about Your Child’s Sleep Problems

If your child is having trouble sleeping, there may be an underlying cause. It is possible that a more serious condition is the cause for your child’s lack of sleep. Such problems include depression, substance abuse or sleep apnea. If you suspect that your child is suffering from something more serious than simply not being able to go to sleep, schedule a visit with his or her physician. It’s likely that a doctor will be able to get to the bottom of your child’s sleep problems.