Sleep for Children – How important is it?

Sleep is especially important for growing children. This article offers advice, and answers some frequently asked questions about children and sleep.

Sleep is important for growing children
Sleep is important for growing children


Sleep is essential to a child’s healthy development. During sleep the body and mind repair and replenishes itself and prepares a growing child for the next day. Without enough sleep, children can suffer from fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating and poor performance in school.

Why is sleep important for children?

When children get enough sleep, they are more alert and focused during the day and perform better in school. Adequate sleep also enhances problem-solving abilities and creative thinking. Good sleep habits help children to become independent, confident and emotionally secure.

In addition, sleep has significant implications for a child’s overall health and wellbeing.

  • Studies have shown that children who get enough sleep are less likely to be overweight or obese, as sleep helps to regulate hormones that control appetite.
  • Sleep is also essential for developing strong bones and muscles. During sleep, growth hormones are released, which helps children grow and develop.
  • Getting enough sleep also helps to strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of illness.
  • Adequate sleep also helps to regulate moods and emotions. When children get enough rest, they are more likely to be in a good mood and have better self-control. They can also better cope with stress, frustration and difficult situations.
  • Good sleep habits can help to promote healthy sleep patterns later in life. It is important for parents to set a regular bedtime and wake-up time for their children and to create a calm and relaxing atmosphere in their bedroom.
Is your child getting enough sleep?
Is your child getting enough sleep?

How many hours of sleep does my child need?

The recommended amount of sleep varies depending on age. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), the following are the recommended hours of sleep for different age groups:

  • Teenagers (ages 14-17): 8-10 hours
  • Children (ages 6-13): 9-11 hours
  • Pre-schoolers (ages 3-5): 10-13 hours
  • Toddlers (ages 1-2): 11-14 hours
  • Infants (ages 4-11 months): 12-15 hours

All children are different, and it’s important to cater to your child’s needs to ensure optimum sleep quality and duration.

Tips for ensuring children get a good night’s sleep

Here are some tips to help children get a good night’s sleep:

  • Establish a consistent bedtime routine. This can include bathing, brushing teeth, changing into pyjamas and reading bedtime stories.
  • Make sure your child’s bedroom is conducive to sleep. Keep the room dark and quiet and free of electronic devices.
  • Avoid giving your child caffeine and sugary drinks in the evening.
  • Avoid having your child watch TV or play video games late at night.
  • Allow your child to snack before bed, but ensure it is healthy.
  • Make sure your child gets regular exercise during the day.
  • Practice relaxation techniques with your child, such as deep breathing or yoga.
  • Talk to your child about any concerns they may have before bed.
  • Make sure your child’s bed is comfortable and that their mattress and pillow are the correct sizes.
  • Keep your child’s bedroom at a comfortable temperature.
Exercise is essential for healthy sleep
Exercise is essential for healthy sleep

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions regarding children and sleep:

Why do children sleepwalk?

Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is a common sleep disorder in children and occurs during deep sleep. The exact cause of sleepwalking is not well understood, but it is believed to be related to genetics, sleep deprivation and certain medications. Stress and anxiety can also trigger sleepwalking episodes.

Is it okay to lay with your child until they fall asleep?

It is common for parents to provide comfort to their children by lying with them until they fall asleep, and there is no harm in doing so as long as it is safe. However, it can become a problematic habit if it interferes with the child’s ability to fall asleep independently and makes it difficult for the parent to break the pattern. In such cases, it might be helpful to establish a bedtime routine and gradually encourage the child to fall asleep independently. Consulting a paediatrician or sleep specialist may also be beneficial.

At what age should a child put themselves to sleep?

The age at which a child can put themselves to sleep can vary and is dependent on many factors such as temperament, development and parenting practices. Some children may be able to fall asleep independently as early as six months, while others may need more support until they are 3-4 years old or older.

It is generally recommended to start promoting independent sleep habits around 6-12 months of age, with the goal of having the child fall asleep on their own by the time they are 2-3 years old. This can be done gradually by establishing a consistent bedtime routine and allowing the child to practice self-soothing techniques. However, every child is different, and it is important to respond to their individual needs and pace of development.

Why do children grind their teeth when sleeping?

Teeth grinding (bruxism) during sleep is a common issue among children and can be caused by several factors, such as stress, anxiety, misaligned teeth or an abnormal bite. It can also be a side effect of certain medications or a symptom of an underlying medical condition such as sleep apnoea.

If teeth grinding is causing dental problems or impacting the child’s quality of life, a dentist or paediatrician may recommend treatment options such as a dental guard, behavioural therapy or medication. In some cases, addressing the underlying cause of the bruxism can also help reduce symptoms.

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