Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How Much Sleep Do Kids Need?

By Gariane Gunter, M.D.

Children these days are busier than ever!  I often hear from parents that it is such a rush to fit everything in and still get the kids to bed on time.  I struggle with the same dilemma at my house.  As a mom, I understand how difficult early bedtimes can be, however, as a psychiatrist, I know why an adequate sleep schedule is so significant for our child's physical and emotional health.   

The American Academy of Pediatrics Guide to Your Child's Sleep provides some helpful guidelines regarding just how much sleep children need at different stages in their development. Keep in mind that these numbers reflect total sleep hours in a 24-hour period. So if your child still naps, you'll need to take that into account when you add up his typical sleep hours.

Birth-6 Months, children need 16-20 hours
6-12 Months, children need 14-15 hours
Ages 1-3, children need 10-13 hours
Ages 3-10, children need 10-12 hours
Ages 11-12, children need 9-12 hours
Teenagers need 10-12 hours of sleep per night
Kids need a lot of sleep, huh?!  Children and teens who are sleep deprived may show some difficult behaviors.  They may display frequent irritability, overreact emotionally, have difficulty concentrating, forget things easily, wake often during the night, and may even display hyperactive behaviors.
Teaching kids how to keep a nighttime routine that gets them to bed early will help your children be at their best.  Sweet Dreams!


  1. Bedtime routines are a great start but what if that doesn't solve the problem. What information are you looking for when you evaluate a sleep problem? And when would you order an overnight sleep lab test?

  2. If bedtime routines aren't effective then further investigation is needed into the etiology of the poor sleep. Many factors can affect a child's sleep, and the ones I commonly see are anxiety, medication side effects, and ADHD. Looking closely at the timeline of the sleep difficulty as well as the specifics (is the problem falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early?) can also be clues to the cause. Children with increased anxiety often times have difficulty falling asleep due to lying awake and worrying, while children with ADHD often times have difficulty settling down long enough to allow them to fall asleep or may awaken in the early morning hours. And as mentioned above, certain medications can disrupt sleep, so the timing and dosage of those medications must be taken into account as well. As far as overnight sleep studies, often times patients will have gotten one previously due to concerns about obstructive sleep apnea raised via their primary care provider. However, if symptoms such as loud snoring, nighttime cough, frequent sore throat/sinus infection, or obesity are present and have not been addressed medically, or the etiology of the sleep difficulty is unable to be determined, then an overnight sleep study is certianly discussed.

    Sweet dreams!
    Dr. Gunter

  3. How Much time do 7 years Children Need to Sleep, My daughter wakes up early 5.30 Am at morning because her school time is 7AM, and returns to bed by 9'0 clock, it is enough for good health. Sometimes she get struggle to wake up. Does she need more sleep?


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