Like adults, children often don't get enough sleep at night.
Unfortunately, not getting enough sleep and being sleep-deprived can have serious consequences.
Children's Sleep Needs
Before you can know if your child is getting enough sleep, it can help to know how much sleep you should expect your child to get. Children's sleep needs depend on their age:
- Newborn - 16 hours
- Infants - 12 to 14 hours (including up to 4 1/2 hours of daytime sleep in 2 to 4 naps)
- Toddlers - 12 hours (including up to 2 1/2 hours of daytime sleep in 1 to 2 naps)
- Preschoolers - 11 hours (including up to 2 hours of daytime sleep in 1 nap)
- School age (6-8 years old) - 10 to 11 hours
- Tweens (9-12 years old) - 10 hours
- Teens - 9 hours
In general, you should expect your child to be within a half hour to one hour of these sleep requirements. Talk to your pediatrician if your child is sleeping much more or less than this, although it may still be normal if your child is healthy, happy, and growing and developing normally.
Are Your Children Getting Enough Sleep?
If not, they may:
- have trouble waking up in the morning
- be sleepy during the day
- sleep in on the weekends to try and make up for not getting enough sleep on school days
- have specific symptoms of being sleep-deprived, such as being irritable or aggressive, having a short attention span, or being hyperactive, many of which are similar to the symptoms of ADHD
In addition to simply having a late bedtime or waking up frequently because of poor sleep habits, children may not get enough sleep if they have obstructive sleep apnea, night terrors or nightmares, restless leg syndrome, asthma (up coughing), and eczema (up itching).
Talk to your pediatrician if your child has any of these problems, especially if you think it is interfering with your child's sleep.
Richard Ferber, M.D. Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems. 2nd Edition.