How much Sleep is Enough?

sleep and children

The school year has started again. As a mother of three children, ages 13, 11, and 8, we are busy! As the summer ended, we were very aware that our days were about to change. No more wearing our pajamas all day long. No more staying up late. No more thoughts that popcorn is a great dinner option. And once again, sleep will be a precious commodity.

I very much believe in letting children be children. During the summer, we have fun! The kiddos are not bombarded with daily structured activities or sporting events. We try to give them many days of just playing and relaxing. We are not constantly on the go. So when school comes, the structure of the school day and the added activities of weekly piano and daily school sports can be a shock to their systems. I saw this time and time again not only in my children but in my students for the 12 years I was a junior high teacher. It is imperative to help our children be as successful as they can, and that means…making sure they are getting what they need even if they don’t want it.

Number one is sleep in my book. All of my children have bedtimes because I believe that children need to sleep. I know how I physically feel when I don’t get enough sleep. My stomach is off, my mind feels foggy, and it takes me longer to get things done. According to the National Sleep Foundation, our preschoolers, or children ages 3-5 need 11-13 hours of sleep a night. If these little ones need to get up by 7 am in order to make the bus, that means they are going to bed by 7 pm the night before to get all the sleep they require. Children who are 6-13 years old need 9-11 hours of sleep a night. And our teenagers still need roughly 9 hours of sleep a night. Without the right amount of sleep, our bodies do not get the time it needs to heal and restore. The National Sleep Foundation states, “Poor or inadequate sleep can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems such as ADHD and cognitive problems that impact on their ability to learn in school.”

To help children sleep, one simple step can make a big difference-turn off the electronics. The light from electronics devices suppresses melatonin, a neurotransmitter needed to aid in sleep. By shutting off the electronics, you are also adding to time that can be spent as a family playing games, talking, and discussing everyone’s day. I know it isn’t always easy getting children to bed, especially if they  have not had a bead time before. I find with my children explaining exactly why I have these expectations works best. I am not sure if it is my convincing  scientific soap box stance or if they are simply wanting me to stop talking. Either way, they fall asleep.

Give your kids a boost this year by putting them to bed at a time that allows them to get the amount of sleep they need. Avoiding caffeine, turning off the electronics, and having a cool bedroom will help your child get a good night sleep which will, hopefully, lead to a happier morning.  And even as I write this, I know how my morning went. Today was the second day my kids HAD to get up for school. Last night I put them all to bed even a little bit earlier than I normally would. Yet this morning, my son was dragging. He was all yawns and droopy eyes. I thought about how he would do during his day, how he would do with cross country tonight. Little bodies need a lot of sleep especially during times of change. Tuck those kids in early! As they get acclimated to school, the added sleep will make a positive difference.