How Much Sleep Do Kids Really Need? Study Offers New Guidelines

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When they’re newborns, they keep you up all night, but by the time their teens you can barely get them out of bed in the morning in time for school. What gives? You might worry and wonder if your kids are getting enough rest. A new scientific review helps answer the question: how much sleep do kids really need?

New research from the University of British Colombia offers parents a guideline on how many hours kids of varying ages should be getting each day. It also backs up the notion that set bedtime routines can help kids get the right amount of healthy sleep.

Image: Courtesy of University of British Columbia

“Good sleep hygiene gives children the best chances of getting adequate, healthy sleep every day. And healthy sleep is critical in promoting children’s growth and development,” sleep expert and nursing professor at University of British Columbia Wendy Hall said in the study.

“Research tells us that kids who don’t get enough sleep on a consistent basis are more likely to have problems at school and develop more slowly than their peers who are getting enough sleep.”

Reviewing 44 previous sleep studies that involved nearly 300,000 kids across 16 countries, the researchers developed the following recommended sleep guidelines, based on age groups:

  • 4 to 12 months: 12 to 16 hours
  • 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours
  • 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours
  • 6 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours
  • 13 to 18 years: 8 to 10 hours

The review also concluded that certain practices led better sleep at night. “We found good-to-strong endorsement of certain sleep hygiene practices for younger kids and school-age kids: regular bedtimes, reading before bed, having a quiet bedroom, and self-soothing—where you give them opportunities to go to sleep and go back to sleep on their own, if they wake up in the middle of the night,” said Hall.

Photo: Sam K via Unsplash

Maintaining a regular bedtime routine was even found to be helpful among older kids that can take longer to fall asleep at night. Even non sleep-related routines, like set dinner times, had a positive impact on sleep regardless of age.

The researchers also recommended limiting the use of screens prior to bed. “One big problem with school-age children is it can take them a long time to get to sleep, so avoiding activities like playing video games or watching exciting movies before bedtime was important,” said Hall.

More studies are needed to look at the effect of certain routines on the quality of sleep, but Hall and her team strongly recommend establishing set bedtimes and developing pre-sleep rituals, like reading books, for all kids.

—Shahrzad Warkentin



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