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  September 25, 2023

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How Much Sleep does your Child Really Need

Why is it that when we get older we would give anything to go to bed early? Once you become a parent, you can count on always being tired. Yet children never want to sleep.  Perhaps they're afraid they'll miss out on something.

Getting your children to bed at a decent hour can be a struggle that is accompanied by tenacious whining.  "But I'm not tired.  Why do I have to go to bed so early?"  Some kids think they can negotiate bedtimes each year, as though it was a union contract up for renewal.

Here's an example of their reasoning.  Kindergarten bedtime is 7:30 pm; so first grade should be 8:00 pm.  You agree to give it a try.  At the start of 2nd grade, your child announces that 8:30 pm should be permitted. And by 3rd grade your precious angel isn't hitting the sack until 9:00 pm.  At this rate, your 6th grader will have lights out at 10:30 pm.  That's way too late!  If you continued in that mode, your high school senior wouldn't go to bed until 1:30 a.m. 

In a study of 74 six- to twelve-year-olds, researchers found that the children generally had more trouble with their schoolwork and more attention problems during the week when they stayed up late each night.  The study, published in the medical journal Sleep, included healthy grade-schoolers without sleep or academic problems. During one week, they followed their normal sleep routine, with younger children getting about 10 hours each night and older children getting 8 to 9 hours. On another week, the children stayed up later than usual and got only 6.5 to 8 hours of sleep, depending on their age. On a third week, all of the children followed an "optimized" sleep schedule and got no fewer than 10 hours of sleep per night. (Source:  SLEEP Dec. 2005)

According to this study, an optimized sleep schedule consisted of no fewer than 10 hours of sleep per night. Okay, so let's back into that time frame.  Your child starts school at 8:45 am.  The bus picks her up at 8:15 am.  You're outside with her by 8:10 am.  She needs a good hour to really wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed and feed the dog.

If you wake her up at 7:00 am, she needs to be asleep no later than 9:00 pm.  Many children don't fall asleep the minute their head hits the pillow. That said, a bed time of 8:00 pm or 8:30 pm is by no means unreasonable.

So the next time your child tells you that he's not tired, you know that regardless of how he feels, his little body needs to be in bed!

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