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Oregon Family Magazine

Is My Child Getting Enough Sleep?

08/31/2022 ● By By Pilar Bradshaw, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Sleep is fundamental to a child’s health; however, getting kids back on their school sleep schedule after a carefree summer can be a tough task for parents.

Research shows that getting adequate sleep is essential for a child’s mental and physical health. It improves focus, behavior, learning and memory. When a child doesn’t get enough quality sleep, they are at increased risk for anxiety and depression, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and problems with their immune system. 

How much sleep does my child need?

The amount of sleep children need varies with age. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends:

  • Infants (under 1 year): 12-16 hours, including naps
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours, including naps
  • Young children (3-5 years): 10-13 hours, including naps
  • School-age children (6-12 years): 9-12 hours
  • Teens: 8-10 hours

Helping a troubled sleeper

Some children have a harder time falling asleep or staying asleep. A 2018 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 70% of high schoolers struggle to get enough shuteye. It’s important to note that during adolescence, the body's circadian rhythm (an internal biological clock) is reset, telling a teen to fall asleep later at night and wake up later in the morning. If your child is struggling to achieve the recommended amount of sleep:

  • Encourage lights out at the same time every night and set a standard morning wake-up time. For young kids who cannot yet tell time, specialized devices are available that serve as a night light and glow green when it's OK for a child to get out of bed. 
  • Develop a consistent and soothing bedtime routine to help calm your child’s mind. This can include taking a warm bath or shower, listening to music or reading. Consider setting a timer if your child has a hard time putting their book down.
  • Turn off screens two hours before sleep and keep all screens out of the bedroom.
  • Avoid caffeine at least 6 hours before lights out.

Do not give children or teens over-the-counter sleep aids, which can be harmful. If you’ve tried the tips above and your child continues to struggle with falling asleep, staying asleep or suffers from excessive daytime sleepiness, talk with your pediatrician.