I don’t know any parents who really expect to feel well rested while their kids are young. In fact, once you become a parent (whether through birth, adoption, or marriage), the phrase “a good night’s sleep” takes on a totally different meaning.
As our kids get older, we assume that they’re getting plenty of sleep. But how much sleep do they really need? And what happens if they don’t get it?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, children age 5 to 12 need about 10 hours of sleep within a 24-hour period. (Preschoolers should get 11 to 13, toddlers need 12 to 14, and babies need even more.)
This was news to me. It was also news to my 2 1/2-year-old son, who has decided that sleep is for sissies and he’s going to make sure I don’t get any either, if he can help it. But his attention span has dwindled to what I imagine a gnat’s might be like, and so we’ve been trying to put him to bed earlier, to see if a little extra sleep will help him.
We might be on the right track. It’s hard to tell, given that he’s a 2-year-old, but even so: “Sleep-deprived kids are unable to learn,” Cornell psychology professor James B. Maas, Ph.D., a leading sleep researcher and author of Power Sleep, points out at Scholastic.com. “Memory, concentration, communication skills as well as critical and creative thinking are all adversely affected.”
A child who is not getting enough sleep may not appear to be tired. My little guy practically vibrates with energy when he’s overtired (and then crashes the instant he’s still for more than three seconds). According to the National Sleep Foundation, “when sleep is poor, children won’t necessarily look sleepy during the day. Sometimes they have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) symptoms: inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. They need to create a stimulating environment to keep themselves awake, because they need to stay awake to learn. They will do anything to change their environment, including displaying aggressive behavior.”
What can you do about it? Start by establishing a bedtime routine at an early age. If both parents work outside the home, it can be tempting to let a little kid stay up later in order to get some play time with Daddy or Mommy but, unless your preschooler is taking a really long nap during the day, or sleeping in every morning, the lack of sleep does her more harm than good.
What time do your kids go to bed? How much sleep do they get (and, just for fun, how does that compare to the number of hours you get to snooze)?
’s the bedtime routine like at your house? Are your kids getting enough sleep?