By Lisa Witherspoon

Homework. Sports and extra-curricular activities. Family time. Parents’ work schedules. These are all important parts of out kids’ daily schedules. As you work out the logistics of all these activities, do you factor in the importance of a good night’s sleep???

How much sleep kids get has a direct impact on development, growth, and performance. Research shows that a lack of sleep can negatively affect a child’s behavior, alertness, temperament, and ability to learn. Children who regularly fail to get enough sleep perform poorly on attention and memory tests. These children are more irritable, often overreact emotionally, have trouble concentrating, and forget things easily. Children who are overly tired often wake frequently and are actually more restless during the night. Some children may even display hyperactive behaviors when they are sleep deprived.

So how much sleep is enough?? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:
Children between 1-3 years of age need 10-13 hours of sleep per day.
Children between 3-10 years of age need 10-12 hours of sleep per day.
Children between 11-12 years of age need about 10 hours of sleep per day.
Teenagers need about 9 hours of sleep per day.

If your child is not getting the recommended amount of sleep, what can you do?? Here are some suggestions:

1.Stick to a routine. Find a routine that works for your family and do it the same way every night. This will help children prepare themselves for sleep and, hopefully, help everyone stick to a consistent bedtime.

2.Consider individual needs. The list above gives recommended amounts of sleep. Your child may need more or less than that, depending on his/her own personality and energy level. Watch for signs like irritability, lack of focus, and/or hyperactivity to determine if your child needs more sleep or not.

3.Reevaluate priorities – If your child is not getting enough sleep, you may need to make some difficult choices. Which is more important – her 7-8 pm dance class or her health and school performance??? Sit down as a family and write out your family’s daily/weekly schedule. Decide which activities are getting in the way of sleep and which ones are REALLY important.

4.Decide on a goal and work toward. If you determine that your son needs to go to bed an hour earlier every night in order to get enough sleep, move his current bedtime up 10-15 minutes per night until you reach your goal.

5.Know when to get professional help. If your child is having a problem, such as nightmares, bedwetting, or pain, that is interrupting his/her sleep regularly during the night, talk to your pediatrician.

Sleep is just as important to your child’s health as exercise and eating right, so make it a priority. You will most likely find that EVERYONE is happier, healthier, and more productive!

Information for this article was gathered from