Sleep is essential to a child’s growth and development. In fact, it’s so important that not enough of it can affect mood, academic performance, behaviour, appetite and general health and wellbeing. Sleep is no less important than food, drink, or safety in the lives of children.
While researchers believe there is no “magic number” in terms of the number of hours a child needs to sleep, there is a wealth of evidence to show that children benefit greatly from the following recommended hours per day:
- Babies: 14-18 hours
- Toddlers: 12-14 hours
- Primary school: 10-12 hours
- High school: 8-10 hours
Yet evidence also shows that 35-40% of parents aren’t encouraging the critical sleep their children need. It’s certainly not something we do on purpose - we often don’t think about it. And that’s the problem.
With parents working long hours, schedules packed with school and after-school activities, and other lifestyle factors, naps are missed, bedtimes are pushed back, mornings start earlier and nights may be anything but peaceful. Missing a nap or going to bed an hour later than recommended might not seem like a big deal, but it all adds up, with consequences that could last a lifetime.
As parents, it’s our responsibility to be sensitive to and protect our children’s sleep, just as we ensure they have a safe environment, just as we ensure they have a healthy breakfast, and just as we ensure they have varied learning opportunities. Primarily responsible for their sleep habits, it’s crucial to start healthy habits early and instill the importance of sleep from a young age. Give sleep the daily attention it needs, and you’ll be rewarded with a happier, healthier and more sociable child.