Facebook Twitter

Ask an Expert: How much sleep do kids really need?

Q. I often have to wake up my elementary school-aged son for school. He’s often really grumpy. How much sleep should he be getting?

A. The simple answer for many students is – more. Parents and teachers should all work together to assist our children and students in developing better sleeping habits. Sleep is a crucial piece to a healthy lifestyle. It is during your sleep cycle that much of the day’s activities enter into your memory. Sleep assists the body’s natural growing process and helps the body to fight off illness. School-age children from 5 years old to 12 should be sleeping from 10 to 11 hours on average, per night.

Poor sleeping habits can quickly lead to sub-par performances in school. Parents can look for signs of poor sleeping in their children by taking note of the following: loud snoring, difficulty breathing, unusual nighttime awakenings and frequent daytime sleepiness. If any of these signs appear in your child, discuss your observations with your doctor or pediatrician.

Here are some good habits to develop in your children’s sleeping patterns.

  • Make sure your son’s bedroom is cool, dark and quiet.
  • Try to get your child to bed at the same time every night. Bodies naturally get used to a schedule and will be ready for sleep.
  • Don’t let your child drink caffeinated beverages, especially in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Encourage your child to exercise during the day. Running and playing at least three hours before bedtime helps the body get ready for sleep.
  • Don’t feed your child big meals before bedtime. Instead, give him a warm glass of milk or light snack, such as fruit, instead.
  • Have a bedtime routine. Encourage your son to do relaxing things before bed each night, such as taking a warm shower, reading or listening to quiet music. His body will know it’s time to wind down to get ready to sleep.
  • When waking up, let in the light. Light turns off the production of melatonin, a chemical that your child’s body naturally produces to help go to sleep.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.