Sleep: How Critical It Is for Your Child

How do you feel when you are sleep deprived? Do you feel grumpy, on edge, short-tempered or simply feel that your eyelids are too heavy to keep open? Well, children feel the same way when they are not getting enough sleep. It is important to understand why sleep is so critical for your child’s health and understand the consequences of a lack of sleep.

Every single living creature needs sleep. During early development, it is the primary activity of the brain. The National Sleep Foundation helps shed some light on this development. “Circadian rhythms, or the sleep-wake cycle, are regulated by light and dark and these rhythms take time to develop, resulting in the irregular sleep schedules of newborns. The rhythms begin to develop at about six weeks, and by three to six months most infants have a regular sleep-wake cycle. By the age of two, most children have spent more time asleep than awake and overall, a child will spend 40 percent of his or her childhood asleep. Sleep is especially important for children as it directly impacts mental and physical development.” 

As a newborn, sleep will consume 10.5-18 hours in a day. Their bodies are still very active, but this sleep is critical for their brain development. For infants, 9-12 hours of sleep at night and a few naps throughout the day are beneficial. This stage is a good time to teach children to self-soothe. Toddlers need  11-14 hours of sleep per day. Generally, around 18 months a toddler will only need 2-3 hour naps per day. From age 5 and above, 11-13 hours of sleep each night with few to no naps is healthful. Once children are school-aged a lot of their time is taken up by school activities, television, social life, etc. They still need 9-11 hours of sleep per night but the increase in distractions can cause difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and anxiety around sleeping. 

With these guidelines, parents can know what is needed for their child and seek to enforce it so their child remains healthy and energized. gave an additional suggestion that would be beneficial for all parents to establish. No matter what your child’s age, establish a bedtime routine that encourages good sleep habits. These tips can help kids ease into a good night’s sleep:

  • Stick to a bedtime, and give your kids a heads-up 30 minutes and then 10 minutes beforehand.
  • Include a winding-down period in the routine.
  • Encourage older kids and teens to set and maintain a bedtime that allows for the full hours of sleep needed at their age.

In a study conducted by Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, children’s observational learning was impacted by the amount of sleep that they were getting. Children are able to learn and focus on so much more when their bodies are rested. Every parent wants their child to do well in school, at home, and at play. So be sure to do what is best for your child by helping them get adequate sleep.

For suggestions on how long your child should be sleeping, see the links below:



Lambert, A., Tessier, S., Rochette, A., Scherzer, P., Mottron, L., & Godbout, R. (2016). Poor sleep affects daytime functioning in typically developing and autistic children not complaining of sleep problems: A questionnaire-based and polysomnographic study. Research In Autism Spectrum Disorders, 2394-106. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2015.11.010

Spooner, R., Lushington, K., Keage, H. A., Blunden, S., Kennedy, J. D., Schembri, M., & … Kohler, M. J. (2016). Original Article: Cognition, temperament, and cerebral blood flow velocity in toddlers and preschool children with sleep-disordered breathing or behavioral insomnia of childhood. Sleep Medicine, 2177-85. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2016.02.002

Van Schalkwijk, F. J., Benjamins, J. S., Migliorati, F., de Nooijer, J. A., van Someren, E. J., van Gog, T., & van der Werf, Y. D. (2015). The role of sleep timing in children’s observational learning. Neurobiology Of Learning And Memory, 12598-105. doi:10.1016/j.nlm.2015.08.003

Waxmonsky, J. G., Mayes, S. D., Calhoun, S. L., Fernandez-Mendoza, J., Waschbusch, D. A., Bendixsen, B. H., & Bixler, E. O. (2017). Original Article: The association between Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder symptoms and sleep problems in children with and without ADHD. Sleep Medicine, doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2017.02.006

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One Response to “Sleep: How Critical It Is for Your Child”

  1. Randolph MATTHEWS January 6, 2020 at 4:09 pm #

    People tend to underestimate the importance of adequate sleep. This problem is not just true in infants/toddlers but especially true in teens that have sleep disturbances caused or worsened by screen time (often after hours). I personally believe that this problem will get worse until the effects are undeniable. Eventually, I suspect the “inadequate sleep” problem will become the new “smoking” problem. Just as smoking went from being unescapable to becoming socially unacceptable, I hope the same may happen with the problem of inadequate sleep. I suspect sleep insufficiency affects our health in more ways than science currently recognizes.

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