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Yawn...... Why your kids need their ZZZs

The National Sleep Foundation tells us what many parents already suspect: their children are not getting enough sleep. As children grow, sleep directly effects the development of both their minds and their bodies. 

They also tell us 69% of children have 1 or more sleep problems a week. And, kids are sleeping about 4 hours less a week than they did just 10 years ago.

How much sleep does my child really need?

The recommended amount of sleep varies depending on the age of the child (or adult!) While adults need between 7 & 9 hours each night, kids need quite a bit more.

Specific recommendations by age are:

Newborns (0 to 3 months)
New babies sleep anywhere between 10.5 and 18 hours a day. They are generally awake between 1 and 3 hours in between sleep periods.

Infants (4 to 11 months)
Once the night time feeding is no longer needed (between 6 and 9 months generally), infants need between 9 and 12 hours of sleep each night. This is supplemented by 1 to 4 naps of 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Toddlers (aged 1 - 2 years)
This aged child needs between 11 and 14 hours sleep each night. Naps are still needed. Toddlers usually decrease their napping to just once a day by 18 months.

Preschoolers (3 - 5 years old)
Preschoolers should sleep between 11 and 13 hours each night. A daily nap is usually not necessary after about age 5.

Elementary and middle schoolers ( 6 to 13 years old)
School-aged children should have between 9 and 11 hours sleep each night.

Teens (14 to 17 years old)
Most teens need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep each night.

Remember - these are averages. Your child may vary from these, but generally these are good guidelines to shoot for.

What if she doesn't get enough sleep?

Too little sleep makes it difficult to memorize and solve problems for school aged children. Kids may be frustrated and fidgety. Toddlers and preschoolers may become more irritable and tantrum.

Battling about it may affect your sleep too!

Are there things I can do to help my child sleep better?

There are definitely some things a parent can do to help a child get a restful sleep. Here are some of my recommendations:

Limit caffeine
Your preschooler probably doesn't drink coffee - but, remember caffeine includes other things like soda and chocolate!

Set a quiet time before bed.
Establish a routine to help wind down to bedtime. Choose quiet activities. Reading, shower or bath. For a young child give a special blanket or toy.

Keep the bedroom dark.
That means no TV, cell phone or iPad. Even before bedtime, limit television watching. Nightmares, bed time resistance and difficulty falling asleep have been associated with watching television too close to bed time.

If you are experiencing persistent issues with bedtime, your pediatrician or family doctor can help you identify ways to get the entire family the rest it needs.


Katrena Lacey, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic Gretna

Dr. Lacey answers your questions about child development and parenting. Dr. Lacey is a specialist in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. She tells us," This specialty allows me to practice like a Family Medicine doctor and treat the whole family - but, I have that additional training in pediatrics and internal medicine." She feels she can make a big difference in the lives of children. She enjoys building relationships with people while helping them live the healthiest and happiest ...

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