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.
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.
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.
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.
Do you have a sleep question you want Heather to answer for Sleep Fix? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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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