Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep? Here’s How To Know

Does your child wake up before the alarm clock goes off, ready to go? Or, after setting three alarms, do you still have to drag your child out of bed in the morning? If it’s the former, he/she is probably getting enough sleep, says Cleveland Clinic. But if it’s the latter, your child is most likely not sleeping enough and needs better sleep habits.

Heather Magnan, MD, FAAP

Signs that your child isn’t getting enough sleep

According to sleep.org, the symptoms of insufficient sleep in children may surprise you. Some signs, like constant yawning or droopy eyes, are easy to recognize, but others aren’t as obvious. Are you noticing any of the following in your child?

Toddlers

  • Cranky, whiny or fussy on a regular basis, especially in the late afternoon
  • Especially clingy, needy
  • Fidgety, antsy or hyperactive behavior
  • Has trouble sharing, taking turns
  • Not talkative, emotionally flat
  • Wakes up groggy
  • Falls asleep after being woken up and needs to be woken again
  • Falls asleep during short car rides
  • Has difficulty shifting from two naps to one nap a day
  • Snores

Elementary school age

  • Hyperactive
  • Falls asleep at inappropriate times
  • Needs to be woken in the morning, sometimes multiple times
  • Lacks interest, alertness, motivation and/or an attention span
  • Seems drowsy at school or at home doing homework
  • Has trouble falling asleep
  • Falls asleep during short car rides
  • Experiences night terrors/sleepwalking
  • Needs regular naps
  • Exhibits loud snoring, breaks in breathing or extreme restlessness at night
  • Has anxiety about being separated from parents during the day and night

Preteens/teens

  • Extremely difficult to wake in the morning
  • Is chronically late for school
  • Mood swings
  • Has trouble concentrating
  • Feels unmotivated
  • Irritable in the early afternoon
  • Falls asleep easily during the day
  • Struggles academically
  • Sleeps for long periods on weekends
  • Is hyperactive or aggressive
  • Acts nervous
  • Consumes excessive amounts of caffeine
  • Uses drugs
  • Seems “out of it” or confused

How many hours of sleep do kids need?

Although there is no magic number for how much sleep your child needs, knowing how much sleep most children your child’s age and stage of development should be getting can help you gauge his/her sleep requirements. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends the following sleep guidelines for children:

  • Infants 4-12 months old: 12-16 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 1-2: 11-14 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 3-5: 10-13 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 6-12: 9-12 hours
  • Ages 13-18: 8-10 hours

8 tips for healthier sleep habits

Cleveland Clinic offers these 8 ways you can help your child get the rest he/she needs:

  1. Aim for a bedtime that allows your child to get at least 10-11 hours of sleep. This might require making bedtime 15-20 minutes earlier.
  2. Set a regular sleep schedule and stick to it even on weekends, holidays and summer vacation. Your child’s bedtime and wake-up time shouldn’t vary by more than 30-45 minutes even when it’s not a school day.
  3. Schedule a regular wake-up time one week before school starts.|
  4. Create a consistent bedtime routine (yes, even for older children) that is calming and prepares them​ for sleep.
  5. Turn off ALL electronic screens at least an hour before bedtime, and do not allow them in your child’s bedroom at night.
  6. Avoid caffeine and sugary drinks, particularly in the second half of the day.
  7. Help your child get ready for sleep by making sure he/she is getting enough physical activity throughout the day. Optimal: at least one full hour.
  8. Set a good example by making sleep a priority for yourself.

When to take your child to the doctor for a sleep problem

Here are 6 reasons you should consider taking your child to the doctor:

  1. Excessive fears or anxiety around going to sleep
  2. Loud snoring
  3. Frequent unexplained nighttime awakenings
  4. Night terrors
  5. Nighttime bedwetting that persists past the age of 7
  6. Excessive daytime sleepiness, in spite of adequate hours of sleep

Read our other blogs on sleep problems

We’ve written several informative blogs about a variety of sleep issues which you can read here.

Concerned that your child may have sleep issues? Please come see us.

If your child’s sleep (or lack of) is becoming an issue, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment to see one of our Westchester Health pediatricians. We’ll share our years of experience helping children and parents overcome what may be getting in the way of healthy sleep, and together, work out a strategy that benefits everyone. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

By Heather Magnan, MD, FAAP, Pediatric Physician with Westchester Health, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners

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