How Much Sleep Does my Child Need?

An image of Danielle Mowbray
15 Aug 20173 min read

Are you concerned about how much sleep your family is getting? Perhaps your youngest child wants to stay up late or you’re struggling to persuade a teenager to get out of bed for school?

These scenarios are common in many households. To an extent, the amount of sleep everyone needs is an individual thing that can be steered by genetics. However, sleep is vital for growing bodies and minds. Today we’re talking about sleep charts, fitting in activities and how to strike a balance.

Sleep charts for kids

A number of organisations provide guidelines on how much rest children should be getting every night. This guidance from the NHS website covers newborn babies right up to children aged 16. According to the Millpond Children’s Sleep Clinic:

  • A three-year-old should get around 12 hours sleep in any 24-hour period.
  • This drops to 11 hours at five years.
  • Then under ten hours at ten years and around nine hours through the teenage years.

One school in Wisconsin, USA, shared a chart featuring suggested sleep schedules for pupils of different ages. This caused some controversy as some parents felt this wasn’t within the school’s remit. Some also questioned the practicality of the schedule, once factors like homework, activities and parents’ commutes to-and-from work were factored in.

The chart was welcomed by many others though, and as this article from the Independent points out, continues to be shared on social media today. So, if you’d like to bring your little one’s bedtime into line with the ‘norm’ for their age, you may want to check it out.

Balancing bedtime

Whatever the charts say, it’s not always easy to ensure children get enough sleep. According to a survey of teachers carried out by the Sleep Council in 2012, nearly a quarter said they’d had to let very tired children sleep in the corner of the classroom at some point. The problem was judged so serious by two-thirds that they worried for pupils’ long-term academic progress.

Some parents may not know what kind of bedtime is appropriate to the age of their children. Others struggle to help children get enough rest for other reasons. It can be tough to get your child to bed on time when you have to fit in family time, bath time, activities and homework. If this sounds familiar, there are methods available to ameliorate the situation. You could speak to your child’s school about the level of homework they’re being assigned. You could also make tasks like dinner or a bedtime story into a family affair. This way, you can all enjoy a quick catch-up without becoming overtired.

Find a routine that works for you

It’s important to find a bedtime routine that works for you and your family. If you are finding that getting the children to bed and keeping them asleep is a daily struggle, don't worry! Help is available. For young infants, you may find it useful to speak to your health visitor. You could also speak to your doctor about any concerns you may have regarding your child's sleep habits. Remember, you're not alone. Most children have sleep issues at some point in their lives, but they rarely last longer than a few days or weeks.

There are some underlying conditions such as ADHD or sleep apnoea that can impact on children’s sleep. The Children’s Sleep Charity offers help and advice for families struggling with sleep problems.

If your child is disabled, they are twice as likely to suffer from sleep issues. In this case, the charity Scope provides information that may help.