How much sleep should kids get?

June 15, 2016 Providence Health Team

When you tell your kids to go to bed, you’re not just exercising your parental authority: You’re doing your part to keep them healthy. A panel of sleep experts surveyed by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has come up with new recommendations for how much sleep kids should get for optimal health.

Kids who don’t get enough sleep, they said, can have trouble learning and paying attention. They also can be at increased risk of accidents, obesity, hypertension and depression. Among teenagers, too little sleep is associated with increased risk of self-harm and suicidal thoughts and attempts.

Sleep guidelines by age group

The panel of 13 experts examined more than 860 peer-reviewed studies over 10 months and produced these recommendations:

  • Babies 4 months to 1 year old should get 12 to 16 hours of sleep, including naps, every 24 hours.
  • Toddlers ages 1 and 2 should get 11 to 14 hours of sleep, including naps.
  • Children ages 3 to 5 should get 10 to 13 hours of sleep, including naps.
  • Children ages 6 to 12 should get nine to 12 hours of sleep daily.
  • Teens should get eight to 10 hours of sleep each day.

“Making sure there is ample time for sleep is one of the best ways to promote a healthy lifestyle for a child,” said Nathaniel Watson, M.D., president of the academy.

The American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed the recommendations, which will be discussed at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

America’s sleep deficit

About a third of the U.S. population doesn’t sleep enough, experts say. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls insufficient sleep “a public health problem.” The agency links a lack of sleep to motor vehicle accidents, occupational errors and industrial disasters.

In addition, too little sleep is tied to chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and depression, as well as to reduced productivity and quality of life, according to the CDC.

Dealing with screen time

Sleep disorders such as apnea or insomnia can interfere with healthy sleep patterns. So can the glow from electronic devices such as computers, video games, televisions and smartphones, according to recent studies.

Pediatric experts surveyed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine recommend limiting screen time for young people. Children under age 2 should have no screen time and young people older than 2 should have no more than one or two hours a day. More than that can make it hard for children to sleep and lead to health problems, they say.

To limit screen time, the experts recommend that you:

  • Remove the television and computer from children’s bedrooms.
  • Don’t use the television for background noise; use the radio instead.
  • Decide ahead of time which programs to watch, then turn off the television when they’re finished.
  • Don’t let your child watch television or use the computer during meals or homework, unless it is needed for study.

You can read about the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommendations here.

f you or your family member is having trouble getting enough sleep, discuss the matter with your health care provider. It may be that you have a physical problem that can be corrected. If you don’t have a provider, you can find a Providence provider here.

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