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Kids In School Need More Sleep Than You Think

Photograph by Twenty20

Dear Heather,

How much sleep does my elementary school-aged child need?

Every season his schedule seems to get busier and busier with practices and homework. I just want to make sure that his sleep is on track.

Rested

Dear Rested,

It’s a good time of year to think about your child’s sleep needs, before all those after-school activities and commitments start to snowball. Everyone has slightly different sleep needs, but for elementary schoolers, the range is about 10 to 12 hours a night. If your son does best with 11 hours of sleep, but he misses 30 minutes for a few nights in a row, it can add up. Kids who lose sleep can have trouble paying attention, and regulating emotions and behaviors. They may also be more prone to getting sick.

RELATED: How Do I Help My Baby Adjust to a Different Time Zone?

Sleeping in on the weekends is great, but it can make it hard for your son to fall asleep the following night, which throws the schedule a bit out of equilibrium. This is why a regular bedtime and wake-up time is best. If kids have a good foundation of regular healthy sleep, their bodies can better deal with occasionally staying up late to watch a movie or being the last to leave a party.

Arranging the daily schedule to allow for wind-down time before bed is really important. Too often, we stack the end of the day with events that push bedtime later. If your child’s bedtime is 8 p.m., then around 7 p.m., start to think about lowering the lights. At 7:30 p.m., mentally shift the tone, volume and activity level in the house. This is the time for reading (no electronic devices), taking a bath or talking about the day—whatever is enjoyable, calm and predictable from one night to the next.

RELATED: My Toddler Won't Go To Bed Without a Bottle

In "The Happy Sleeper" book, you’ll find a checklist of behaviors to watch for that will tell you if your little one (baby through school age) is well rested or if they need a bit more sleep. These behaviors will also tell you if your son is getting the right amount of sleep for his growing body.

Happy sleeping!

Heather

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Do you have a sleep question you want Heather to answer for Sleep Fix? Email her at heatherturgeonmft@gmail.com. Sleep expert Heather Turgeon, co-author of "The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep—Newborn to School Age," will fix your family's sleep problems in this space as she does in her Los Angeles-based sleep consultations. Turgeon's solutions are nonjudgmental, kind and—best of all—based on science.

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