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Sleep Requirements for Children

Sleep Requirements for Children

Sleep is something most parents don’t get enough of.  From the discomfort of pregnancy to nighttime feeding, then nights spent worrying about a fever, the first boyfriend, driving…our days of a good night’s sleep are gone once we sign up for parenthood.  But what about our kids?  How much sleep do they need?  Newborns sleep for 16 to 20 hours/day.  This decreases to 14 hours by 6-12 months.  Most 1-3 year olds need to sleep 10 to 13 hours a day, and 3 -6 year olds should sleep for 10-12 hours a day.  Children aged 6-9 years old require on average about 10 hours of sleep each night; most 9-12 year olds are OK with 9 hours.  Teens need 8 to 9.5 hours of sleep each night; often their sleep requirements actually increase during their pubertal growth spurt.  While we would like our teens to get a good full night of sleep, the total hours of sleep matter most.  So naps and make-up sleep on the weekends are OK.  When kids don’t get enough sleep, their cortisol (stress hormone) levels increase, which can worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Kids who don’t sleep well are also more likely to have problems with attention and concentration.  And several nights of poor sleep can cause a decrease in levels of interleukin-1, an important immune system booster.  To help kids get a good night sleep limit caffeine intake (no caffeine 6 hours before bedtime), turn off the TV well before bedtime, stop cell phone/tablet use an hour before bedtime, and try to stick to a bedtime routine.  Sweet dreams! 

Jennifer Macia MD

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