All parents know that sleep is important to growing kids, especially now that kids don’t seem to be getting enough of it, thanks (or not) to tablets and smartphones. Where it gets quite confusing, however, is how many hours of it children really need as different health institutions and experts seem to be giving inconsistent info.
To make things crystal clear, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has just released, for the first time, its recommendations on how much sleep children and teens should get. A number of health groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have already endorsed the recommendations so hopefully we can all agree on this one.
The recommendations are:
- Infants 4 months to 12 months should sleep 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
- Children 1 to 2 years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
- Children 3 to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
- Children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep 9 to 12 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
- Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
The recommendations above were based on AASM’s research conducted by reviewing more than 800 studies on the relationship between sleep and children’s health.
Benefits of a proper night’s sleep, according to the AASM, include better attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health – which reads to us as basically a list of things a child needs to function well in school and at home.
On the other hand, not getting enough sleep is associated with an increase in injuries, depression, obesity and hypertension.
The AAMS recommendations do not differ by much from those released last year by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), only showing an hour difference for both infants and 6 to 12-year-olds.
But, parents shouldn’t be so rigid about a child’s sleeping schedule. Both guidelines do allow for a little flexibility. Case in point, the sleeping chart below, made by an educator from an elementary school in the U.S., went viral earlier this year, and it became a hot topic for parents on social media. Some calling the chart “unrealistic” and even “an impossible feat”. A fair few though agreed with it and called it totally doable.
ILLUSTRATION Wilson Elementary/Facebook
Impossible or not, the chart does still fit the guidelines set by both the AASM and the NSF so technically both sides are correct. Probably more worthy of our attention than a very specific chart, however, is the AAP suggestion that screens be taken away from children 30 minutes before bedtime, which is most likely what’s keeping our children from dreamland in the first place.