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Are your kids getting enough sleep?

Published in Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Denise Lenarz,MD

We’ve all dealt with cranky kids who have had interrupted naps or had to get up early for a special occasion. But you might not realize how important sleep is for children. Sufficient sleep improves behavior, attention span, learning, memory, emotional regulation and overall quality of life. Research shows that not getting enough sleep is linked with more injuries, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and depression.

New sleep guidelines by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics were recently published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. The guidelines include:

  • Infants 4 to 12 months — 12 to 16 hours of sleep every 24 hours (including naps)
  • Children 1 to 2 years — 11 to 14 hours of sleep every 24 hours (including naps)
  • Children 3 to 5 years — 10 to 13 hours of sleep every 24 hours (including naps)
  • Children 6 to 12 years — nine to 12 hours of sleep every 24 hours
  • Teens 13 to 18 years — eight to 10 hours of sleep every 24 hours

There is a huge range of what’s normal for newborns so recommendations for babies younger than 4 months were not included.

The National Sleep Foundation found that more than 85 percent of teens lack adequate sleep. However, sleeping too much also can be a problem, so there is a limit on the total hours of sleep per day.

What can you do to help promote good sleep?

  • Keep TVs and electronic devices out of bedrooms (light stimulates wakefulness).
  • Turn off all screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Set good sleep habits. Babies, toddlers and younger children benefit from a regular, structured bedtime routine at about the same time every day. Help them brush their teeth and read a book together.