How Can My Child Get More Sleep?

Dr. Jodi Mindell
Dr. Jodi Mindell

Do you know how much sleep we really need? What about how much sleep your child needs? Sleep needs vary with age, but generally speaking, young children need around 11 to 12 hours each night, teens need between 8.5 and 9.25 hours and the average adult needs only between seven and nine hours per night. Of course, getting your child to enjoy the recommended hours of sleep each evening is often difficult.

Our expert, Dr. Jodi Mindell, tells us how your children can get more sleep. 

What is the number one reason children don't sleep enough?

Many children are going to bed too late to enjoy a full night’s rest.  Research shows that children who go to bed after 9:00 p.m. take longer to fall asleep, wake more often at night and get less overall sleep. Parents should be aware of how much sleep their child needs and establish an appropriate bedtime.

Why do you think sleep feels like such a battle for so many families?

Often parents do not set clear rules surrounding sleep and bedtime. 

Why don't kids act tired or want to go to sleep?

That is a very good question!  We have to consider that kids do not want to miss out on anything. They also tend to perceive sleep as a chore rather than the luxury that it is.

Adults have two peaks of alertness during the day (morning and early evening) - is this true for children as well? Does this affect when they nap?

Yes, this is true.  We often call that second peak the “forbidden zone.” It typically occurs in the evening. Parents often perceive that their child is not tired when they reach this peak. Instead their child may be overtired.  Setting bedtimes before this peak is best.

What are some common misconceptions about children's sleep? 

A common misconception is that children need less sleep than they actually do.  Many children are not getting the sleep they need, and it is our job as parents to make sure that children receive not only the quantity of sleep that they require, but quality sleep as well.

Another misconception is that sleep is hard to change.  A few simple changes can make a huge difference in how well a child sleeps. These changes include going to bed early, having a consistent bedtime routine, avoiding all caffeine, and helping set the ideal bedroom environment for your child.

Our Expert

Dr. Mindell is Professor of Psychology at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and is a clinical psychologist specializing in pediatric sleep medicine.