Sleep is as important to our health and well-being as food and water, but most of us don’t get enough of it. Sleep deprivation is currently one of the most pervasive health concerns in the United States. For children, sleep plays a critical role in their healthy growth and development. Beyond simply affecting children’s moods, behaviors, and academic performances, insufficient sleep has also been associated with lower social skills, learning disabilities, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
How Much Sleep Is Enough?
When experts study the sleep needs of children, they consider the amount of sleep children need in a 24-hour period, including naps. Since every child is different, sleep charts are not exact; however, there are some agreed-upon ranges for children of different ages*:
- Birth to 6 months old: 10 to 18 hours of sleep each day
- Six months to 2 years old: 11 to 16 hours of sleep each day
- Three years old: 10 to 14 hours of sleep each day
- Four to 6 years old: 9 to 14 hours of sleep each day
- Seven to 9 years old: 9 to 12 hours of sleep each day
- Ten to 12 years old: 8 to 11 hours of sleep each day
(*from Iglowstein I., Jenni, O. G., Molinari, L., & Largo, R. H. (2003). Sleep duration from infancy to adolescence: Reference values and generational trends. Pediatrics, 111 (2), 302-307.)
Do these numbers surprise you? If so, you are not alone. Most parents are unaware of just how much sleep their children require in a 24-hour period.
If you suspect your child is sleep-deprived, you may find the following references helpful:
- The National Sleep Foundation
- Garfield Star Sleeper A website for children, hosted by the National Center on Sleep Disorder Research (NCSDR)
- The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Baby Sleep Longer by Harvey Karp
- The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley and William Sears
What are some ways you make sure your child gets the sleep he or she needs?