Why Is Sleep So Important?

Originally posted here by Dr. Samir Armin, pediatrician at Texas Children’s Hospital
No one starts the day off on the right foot unless they’ve had enough sleep! Rest is essential; yet, according to the National Sleep Foundation, nearly 30 percent of children and 75 percent of teenagers are not getting the right amount of bed rest. Below, I have answered a few important questions to help better understand the importance of sleep so you can help your child catch a few more Zs throughout the night.

How much rest does a child need each night according to his or her age? 

Sleep patterns and behaviors change in children, from birth to adulthood. There is a great deal of variability with the amount of rest children should get, but this table below is a good overall guide to use for recommended total rest per day.

Newborns, 0-1 year: 16 hours

Toddlers, 1-2 years: 11 to 14 hours

Preschoolers, 3-5 years: 10 to 13 hours

School-aged, 6-13 years: 9 to 11 hours

Teenagers, 14-17 years: 8 to 10 hours

It may be appropriate for some children to rest an average of one to two hours more or less than the aforementioned recommendation, based on their genetic and physiological needs.

Why is adequate rest important for a child?

Sleep is especially important for children due to the impact it has on both mental and physical development. Rest is the time for restoration and for children’s bodies to recharge and retain the information they have learned throughout the day. During deep non-REM sleep, the body’s energy is restored, growth and repair occurs and important brain development hormones are released.

Sleep deprivation stifles the immune system, negatively affects mood and behavior, and can also hinder a child’s performance in school. Good rest is a vital component for a healthy lifestyle.

What are the most common sleep disorders in children and how are they treated? 

The most common sleep disorders in children include nightmares, night terrors, insomnia and parasomnias (including sleep talking and walking). These disorders can sometimes be genetically related. Most sleep disorders are treated by recommending good sleep hygiene (see below) and a consistent bedtime routine.

One of the biggest sleep disrupters is the tendency for some children to go into their parent’s room in the middle of the night for comfort. Try to avoid this as much as possible.

It is also important to note that children should not snore. Talk to your pediatrician if your child snores, as this may be a sign of sleep apnea and may be related to a medical problem.

What can parents do to help ensure their children get a proper night’s rest? 

Consistency is key. Children should go to bed at a consistent time every night and wake up at approximately the same time every morning. This is often more difficult in the summer, but try to adhere to a schedule as much as possible!

The bedroom is a place for rest. This means removing distracting elements (books, TVs, games, light-up toys and electronic devices) from the room.

Always ensure children are eating a well-balanced diet and are getting plenty of exercise as well!