How Much Sleep Should Kids Really Get?

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Sleep, glorious sleep. It often alludes me and I’m starting to think my kids, as well. 

I have a pre-teen who can’t seem to wake up in the morning and a teen who can’t fall asleep at night.  With this in mind I sought out trusted sleep experts to explain just how much sleep kids really need and if their age effects this magic number.  

From a quantity perspective Michael Breus, Ph.D., sleep expert and author or The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan has a pretty standard calculation. 
According to his recommendations even teens (ages 13-19) need about 9-10 hours of sleep each night. And he’s not alone in this school of thought. 

“Teenagers need more sleep than many parents realize, over 9 hours per night. Teens experience physiological changes that push them to stay up later and sleep later in the morning,” explains Malia Jacobson, sleep expert and author of Ready, Set, Sleep: 50 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep So You Can Sleep Too. 

Breus breaks down the hours of sleep (needed by age) like this: 
·       Toddlers: 12-14 hours of sleep 
·       Pre-schoolers: 11-12 hours of sleep 
·       School-aged kids: At least 10 hours of sleep 
Both Breus and Jacobson say the key to our kids getting the right amount of sleep is in our hands as parents. 

“One thing parents need to do is keep their schedule consistent. Kids don’t or won’t care all that much about sleep. Parents need to explain to them why sleep is important and reinforce the importance of sleep, even through their own behavior,” offers Breus.   

Jacobson recommends that parents also teach their kids to unplug before bed–an overstimulation that will disrupt a good night of zzz’s. 

“Parents should not allow electronics in teen’s bedrooms at night, to help teens’ circadian rhythms stay on track,” she says. 

Regardless of the age of the child most experts say it is the parents who need the real training when it comes to how to get a good nights’ sleep.  

“Kids can tend to be overscheduled. Parents need to set priorities. If a child is having a hard time falling asleep often it’s the parents not them at the root of the problem,” says Breus. 

Armed with this information I think I’ll take a second look at my own caffeine intake before bed and probably grab a book instead of the remote to settle in for the night.  At least this way if a set of brown eyes is peering around the corner, they might just pick up on something.   

Tara Weng is a parenting and health contributor for GalTime. She is also a media consultant with a focus on medical and consumer topics. Her professional experience includes a stint as a medical/features producer at the NBC affiliate in Boston, MA and a media relations position at a top teaching hospital in Boston. Tara has also done public relations consulting work and has written for several online and print media outlets. She is a wife and a mother to two children (who are fantastic) and an enthusiastic New England sports fan. 

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