Parenting,  Routines

A Controversial Discussion on How Much Sleep Kids Really Need

I LOVE NAPS.  And I’m a huge advocate for sleep.  In fact, besides my morning coffee, my most favorite thing in the world is snuggling into my pillow, pulling my fluffy cold covers up over my body and drifting off to sleep, whether it’s at bedtime or in the middle of the day for a nap.  I’m one of those weird adults who needs 9-10 hours of sleep to function at my best too.

Do you know who else needs 10 hours of sleep to be at their best?

7-12 year olds.  Yep!  Elementary school kids need a solid 10-11 hours of sleep EVERY NIGHT! 

Surprised? Many parents have no idea how much sleep their child should be getting every night, and that totally shows up in a child’s behavior.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying you’re a bad parent if your kid goes to sleep at 11 and wakes up at 6 every day.  I’m just saying you might want to rethink some things *wink*!

Here’s a chart that shows how much sleep kids should get on average by age.  This amount of sleep is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Sleep Foundation, and even by The Sleep Council across the pond over in the good ole UK. Are your kids getting this much sleep every night?

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Why Is Sleep Important?

1. Sleep Keeps Kids Focused

When brains are rested, they function optimally, which means a rested brain has more focus, more ability to process information, and the ability to have more self-control throughout the day.  Rested kids will have improved attention spans and remember what they’ve learned more easily.  Sleep helps a child have enough mental capacity to get through their days without meltdowns, which is reason #2 that sleep is important.

2. Sleep Keeps Kids Happy

A sleep-deprived adult is a cranky adult, and it’s the same for children.  If a child is constantly sleep deprived, they have a hard time mentally processing the information that is constantly pummeling them throughout the day, and this can cause children to be overwhelmed mentally and emotionally.  Instead of having the mental fortitude to identify and process those emotions, children simply lash out, typically in anger and frustration.  Ensuring your kids get the sleep they need can stop the roller coaster of angry behavior by allowing your child’s rested brain to properly process and handle emotion.

3. Lack of Sleep Can Cause Anxiety and Depression

Just like anger, anxiety and depression can be enhanced when children aren’t getting the amount of sleep they really need to function optimally.  Sleep fuels the brain’s ability to process, and when this processing is slowed down, emotions easily become overwhelming and difficult to manage.  When children get the sleep they need, their brains are able to deal with anxious or overwhelming situations much more easily.

4. Lack of Sleep Can Cause Weight Gain

Ever heard of the Freshman 15?  It’s the phrase for the 15 pounds that students gain during their first year of college.  This typically happens to college freshman because they stay up late cramming for tests, then have to get up early for class.  They don’t get the amount of sleep their bodies crave, and when people don’t get the amount of sleep they need, their body temperature drops.  When your body temperature drops, it signals your body’s response system to hold onto fat so the optimal body temperature can be restored, and so you gain weight.  This cycle can happen to children too, but the cycle can be stopped by making sure your kiddos get the sleep they need.

How to Get Your Children The Sleep They Need

Start a Bedtime Routine

Implementing a bedtime routine is an easy start to making sure your kids get the sleep they really need.  Your bedtime routine will cue the kids that it’s time to settle down and get ready for sleeping.  A routine can help settle their minds so they fall easily to sleep.  Once the routine is established, it’s easy to get kiddos into bed.  Our routine only takes 20 minutes every night and our kids are usually asleep about 10 minutes after that.  Our bedtime routine makes the process really easy, and our kids are getting the recommended amount of sleep they need to function at their best.

Did you know sleep was so important to a child’s wellbeing?  I’m a huge advocate for sleep, not just because I like naps, but because sleep is important to growing tiny humans.  I’d love to hear about your kids’ sleep habits – do your kids get the recommended amounts of sleep, or are they crazy energizer bunnies running on high speed every day to compensate for being tired?  Drop me a comment below!

All the best,

Erin

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